Before the age of 1, babies know how to hold a bottle, cup and finger food. Toddlers can begin using cutlery, supporting fine-motor coordination. Encourage tamariki to recognise their body’s messages when they feel hungry, and when they feel full.

Why do it?

  • This is the time when toddlers start wanting to do things for themselves.
  • Toddlers are often keen to feed themselves.
  • They’ll have the chance to practise using a spoon or a fork — a useful fine (small muscle) motor skill.
  • They can make choices about what they eat and how much.
  • Letting children decide how much to eat helps them learn what being full feels like.

How to do it

  • Put an old sheet or some newspaper underneath where the child is eating to help protect the floor and make clean-up quicker.
  • Have some food ready before sitting them down for their meal.
  • Soft finger food is ideal for this activity.
  • Decide how many pieces to offer them — start with 2 or 3.
  • Take your cue from them about how much more to offer.
  • If they’re eating food from a bowl, have a spoon for you and one for them, so they can watch you and practise.
  • Select some foods that are good for eating with a little fork, (cooked vegetable or a firm banana) so they can practise this skill too.

Using more te reo Māori

Te reo Māori English
Wā mō te kai Mealtime
Kei te hiakai koe? Are you hungry?
He aha tō pirangi hei kai? What do you want to eat?
Kei te pīrangi koe ki te parakuihi? Do you want some breakfast?
He āporo māu? Do you want some apple?
Māku e mahi ngā kai I'll make some food
Anei. E kai Here you are. Eat up
Huakina mai tō waha Open your mouth
Āta kai Eat nicely
Tino reka tēnei kai This kai is delicious
That's enough
He kai anō māu? Do you want more food?
Whakawhetai kai Blesing of food
Nau mai e ngā hua o te wao, o te ngakīnga, o te wai tai, o te wai Māori
I welcome the gifts of food from the sacred forests, from the cultivated gardens, from the sea, from the fresh waters.
Nā kai ō Tāne The food of Tāne
Nā Rongo of Rongo,
Nā Tangaroa of Tangaroa,
Nā Maru of Maru
Ko Ranginui e tū iho nei
I acknowledge Ranginui who is above me
Ko Papatūānuku e takoto ake nei And Papatūānuku who lies beneath me
Tūturu whakamaua kia tina; tina, haumi-e, hui-e, taiki e! Let this be my commitment to them all.