Mealtime with babies and toddlers is…
… an adventure.
There’s a lot going on. A lot of chaos.
Food is flying everywhere. Kids are yelling. Or singing. Or throwing things.
Sometimes their favorite cup is dirty. Sometimes you forgot to give them their juice.
And sometimes you’re out of plastic kid-friendly silverware.
If you’re like me in those situations, you might be wondering when it’s OK and what age babies can use metal cutlery (forks and spoons).
Most experts agree that you shouldn’t start off feeding babies and infants with metal spoons and cutlery.
They’re not necessarily all that dangerous, but it’s better to wait to introduce metal spoons and cutlery until:
- Your baby isn’t biting everything in sight
- Your baby has pretty good motor control (and won’t hit or poke themselves with the metal)
- Your baby has made a lot of progress eating with utensils (metal cutlery can slow this down)
Most parents wait until around 18 months or older to introduce “adult” spoons and forks.
Let’s dive in a little deeper to see why.
Why can’t babies use metal spoons?
There are a couple of reasons most doctors and parenting experts agree that infants shouldn’t use metal spoons when they’re just beginning to eat solids.
Metal is hard on their teeth and gums
For starters, really young babies haven’t yet learned how to extract food off of a spoon in a graceful way. They’re likely to gnaw and chomp at it to get the food off (or because they do that with just about everything they see).
And you can’t blame them! Mouthing is how babies interact with the world when they haven’t learned how to use their hands super well yet.
The metal of a spoon, fork, or spork is going to be too hard on their sensitive gums and budding teeth. It could be uncomfortable, or worse, cause cuts and bruises.
Metal is extremely temperature sensitive
Have you ever left a spoon in a bowl of hot soup too long?
How did it feel when you tried to take a taste? Not great, right?
Metal can very easily become really hot or really cold depending on its contact with certain kinds of food.
Now, it’s not very likely that you’re feeding your young baby anything that’s too extreme, temperature-wise, but any fluctuation that baby doesn’t like could cause them to dislike the utensil-experience altogether.
And you wouldn’t want to slow down their progress learning how to eat solid foods.
Plus, why risk it? Plastic and rubber spoons don’t carry any risk, really, of overheating or becoming too cold.
Metal is heavier/harder
This is a little redundant of point number one, but adult-style cutlery can carry some serious weight sometimes.
It probably won’t be too heavy for a baby to lift and eat from, but if they were to swing it around and clonk themselves on the head or in the eye, it would probably do more damage than a light plastic or springy rubber spoon.
That’s why motor control is an important milestone to keep an eye on when trying to decide if you should switch to metal or silver cutlery.
Is your baby likely to hit themselves with it accidentally? If so, stick with rubber and plastic!
When to switch to metal or silver cutlery for babies & signs to look for
There are a couple of signs to look for that your kid might be ready to make the switch.
Most parents wind up letting their babies or toddlers use “real” spoons and forks somewhere around 18 months or so, depending on:
- How good they are at self-feeding: If they’re pretty accomplished, that’s a good sign you can make the switch. If they’re still learning, they might not like the feel of the metal and it could cause them to backtrack.
- What kinds of food they’re capable of eating: If your kid is old enough to eat certain tougher kinds of food with a fork, he or she might need a metal fork that can properly stab. But again, watch the motor control! Metal forks can be quite prickly, so be sure that you trust your toddler to wield one.
- How often they bite or mouth things: The thought of biting into a metal spoon literally sends shivers up my spine. Imagine what it could do to fragile young teeth! If your kid is still biting things to feel them out, better stay with plastic and rubber for a while longer.
When do all of these things tend to align? Well, someone started an informal poll over on BabyGaga and somewhere around 80% of the parents who responded said they let their kids start using metal cutlery anywhere from 12-24 months.
So that gives you a pretty good ballpark of what other parents are doing.
But you should use your own judgment based on your own comfort level.
There’s really no rush to switch to metal cutlery. If you’re out at a restaurant and all they have is metal, it’s probably not going to be the end of the world to use it once in a while.
But when you’re home, you should just stick with your kid’s plastic or rubber cutlery for as long as you and they want to.
Plastic vs rubber vs wood cutlery for babies
So if metal is out before your baby is around a year old, which material should you use?
Which kinds of spoons are best for babies learning how to self-feed?
Plastic, rubber, silicone, and even wood are all fine choices.
The key things you want to look at are:
- No sharp edges: Sometimes, hard plastic forks, sporks, and even spoons can have firm, pointy edges. I’d steer clear of this for young babies until they learn their way around cutlery a little better.
- No splintering or loose pieces: Wood and rubber/silicone options are great, just be sure they’re not too heavily worn to the point of splintering or pieces falling off. This is really dangerous for obvious reasons. This isn’t as much a concern when buying new silverware, but if you’re inheriting hand me downs or shopping used, be on the lookout.
- BPA free: If you go with plastic cutlery for your baby or toddler, make sure it’s BPA free. The concern over BPA levels may be slightly overblown, according to Mayo Clinic (they write that BPA is safe in very low levels), but it’s a good idea to play things safe when it comes to infant safety.
- Dishwasher safe: How do you clean and sterilize baby spoons? Make your life a heck of a lot easier and get baby cutlery that you can throw in the dashwasher! That way, you know it’ll come out completely clean and sterilized and you won’t have to worry about the quality of your handwashing.
What are some of the best spoons for babies?
There are all kinds of wild new inventions out on the market when it comes to baby cutlery.
There are self-feeding spoons that supposedly can’t spill, baby spoons with loop handles, and all sorts of interesting innovations.
We got an absolute TON of use out of these super basic Munchkin spoons when our daughter was little.
I loved them because they:
- Come in lots of cool colors
- Are pretty inexpensive to stock up on a ton of them (so you’ll never run out)
- Are dishwasher safe
- Are BPA free
You can check out the price and more reviews of the Munchkin Infant Spoons on Amazon right here.
If you ARE ready to switch to metal cutlery with your toddler, I’d probably start off with something like this kids’ silverware set right here on Amazon that has rubber-coated handles.
It’s a nice halfway point that should be a little safer and more comfortable for kids than just regular, adult silverware.
There’s not really an exact age that you’re supposed to switch your kids over to metal cutlery.
But most parents tend to do it once their kids are a year old or slightly older.
However, there’s no rush! If you want your kids to keep using plastic forks and spoons until they’re 3 or 4, there’s no reason to change things up. Metal cutlery doesn’t have any real advantage over kid-safe stuff except that maybe it’s more easily available when you’re eating out at restaurants.
Is your baby or toddler ready to switch? It all comes down to:
- What they’re eating
- How well they’re eating
- Motor control
- Mouthing/biting tendencies
Again, if you’re in doubt, just hold off on the switch for now. There’s no reason to rush things.
I hope this helps, parents!