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HealthWiki > Helping Children Who Are Blind > Chapter 8: Teaching Everyday Activities > Eating


If your child can see a little, be sure to adapt these activities to best use her remaining sight.

Blind children can learn eating skills at the same time as children who can see. Expect your child to do what other children her age in your community can do. These ages differ from community to community. But many children learn eating skills at about these times:

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Birth to 4 months: A baby sucks and swallows. She also learns to open her mouth when she is about to be fed. 6 months or older: Along with breast milk, she begins to eat soft, mashed foods, like cereal or rice. She may begin drinking from a cup. 6 to 12 months: She begins feeding herself small bits of food with her hands. She should still breastfeed whenever she wants it.
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9 months to 1 year: She begins to eat mashed foods and to use some eating tools, like a spoon. 1 to 3 years: She learns to better use eating tools and a cup. 3 years: She can eat most adult foods.

A child who cannot see well will learn to feed herself more quickly if she eats about the same time every day, in the same place, and with other people. This helps her learn that eating is done in a certain way. She will also learn the names of foods more quickly if everyone in the family uses the same name for the same food.

To prepare your child to eat by herself

Before your child begins feeding herself, you can help her prepare to learn these skills.

a woman breastfeeding a baby.

When nursing your baby, give her a sign, like touching her cheek, to let her know you are about to feed her. As she feeds, place her hand on your breast. This helps her learn where the milk comes from.

a man holding a child and speaking as he feeds her with a spoon.
Marisol, open your mouth. Here comes the rice.

When you start feeding your baby soft foods, tell her when you will be putting food in her mouth. Let her touch the bowl and keep her hand on yours as you bring the food to her mouth. Describe what she is eating and how it tastes, and encourage her to touch and smell the food. If she spits out the food, keep trying. She needs to get used to eating in other ways than sucking on a breast.

a woman speaking as she holds a spoon for a child to touch.
Let your child touch the food before you feed her.
Eloho, here are some yams...mmm Mama’s favorite!

Encourage your baby to try different kinds of food. When she can eat mashed foods, feed her the same foods that adults eat. Then she is more likely to want these foods as she gets older. If she does not like foods with different textures, keep trying. Eating different foods will help her learn to swallow well.

If your baby cannot hold her head up, hold her in your lap and support her head with your arm. See information on how to help strengthen her neck muscles.

To help your child learn to eat by herself

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When she is learning to drink from a cup, first let her feel the cup and the liquid inside. Then let her hold the cup and smell the liquid as you guide it to her mouth. Encourage her to take a sip of liquid. Finally, help her set the cup back down in the same place.

a woman speaking to a child who sits in her lap eating at a table.
Your child will eat best if she is sitting up straight.
Where’s your mouth? The food goes straight to your mouth, Meliza.
When your child begins to pick up foods with her hands, let her feel and smell the food. At first she may need a lot of help putting the food in her mouth, but slowly she will be able to do more herself.

Help your child learn to use the eating tools — spoons, or chopsticks, or fingers — your community uses. Teach her how to hold the tool, how to pick up the food, and how to bring the food to her mouth. Slowly give less and less help. Sit behind her as you guide her hand. Be patient. Your child will be messy at first. It usually takes a year or more for a child to become good at these skills.

a woman speaking as she helps a child to eat from a bowl.
Your beans are on the right, and the rice is on the left — just like always.

Even after your child begins using eating tools, let her touch the food so that she knows what the foods are and where they are in her bowl. It also helps to put her food and drinking cup in the same place at each meal.

Let your child eat with the rest of the family so she learns that eating is a social time. Encourage everyone to include her in what is happening.

a woman speaking as a boy knocks over a cup during a family meal.
Uh-oh...Anita, that noise was your brother spilling his milk.

a boy speaking to a child while they eat together.
Feel how my mouth moves, Arti? That’s how I chew my food.

Help your child learn to bite off pieces of food with her front teeth and chew with her back teeth. Show her what chewing is by putting her hand on your jaw as you chew. If she does not follow your example, gently move her lower jaw up and down to show her how chewing feels.

a man speaking as he helps a girl pour water into a cup.
When the water touches your finger, Irene, stop pouring.

When your child can hold a jug or pitcher, help her learn to pour her own water. By putting a finger in the top of her cup, she will know when it is full. (Try this yourself with your eyes closed.)