All educational processes aim at making a child autonomous. Autonomy, in other terms, is being capable of doing something alone. Concerning nutrition, a young child is considered autonomous not only when he can feed himself with a knife and fork, but also when he is capable of saying what he prefers to eat. In other words, little by little, he builds up his own personal preference for those tastes, flavours and foods which he appreciates. Even if, to his own surprise, this basis is not fixed, he should be able to express what he likes or dislikes to eat, either by saying “I don’t like that” or by spitting it out.

 

A gentle approach to autonomy

To master doing things by themselves, children need to feel safe. The first motivation must come from them. They want to drink from a cup rather than a bottle, they pick up a spoon, they want to try food not meant for them…. Children feel secure if parents respect their rhythms and do not push them. In this way, the more they discover, the more they want to discover. It is only when they feel completely comfortable with their discoveries that they will be able to move on to the next stage.
Children need to feel empowered, even if what they achieve isn’t yet perfect. They need complements and encouragements to feel positive about experiences and to want to renew them.

 

In practice

There is no “right age” for doing things be it nutritional variety, the act of eating with a spoon, then a fork, then chunky food… Each child has his own rhythm and will reach the next stage if he feels that he is considered as a specific and individual person. By imitation, children will become more autonomous which leads them to greater independency. To accompany them in the best conditions, it is best to lower expectations and rather to welcome their attempts and trials positively.