I've been quite happy to let D eat with his fingers most of the time, occasionally feeding him purees or yogurt by spoon by me. For a long time I avoided letting him try to use a spoon as I figured the whole thing would be a huge, horrible mess. But since he's turned a whole year old I figured I needed to at least let him try it, so on occasion I've given him a spoon to play with as he eats, and even let him dip it in his yogurt and play with it, getting it all over his fingers, the table, etc. Every so often the spoon might actually get to his mouth, which I found amazing, but more often than not he just played with it.
I tried to think of what I could do to encourage using a spoon and improve his dexterity with it. I remembered Montessori "practical life" activities where children use a spoon to transfer dried beans from one bowl to another as a way to practice, but beans seemed too big a choking hazard as I knew he'd end up sticking them in his mouth (or nose, or ear...). Then I had an epiphany-- why not try his teddy puffs??? About the right size, and if he eats them no big deal! So I brought out 2 small bowls and filled one of them with teddy puffs. I then took his spoon and showed him slowly and carefully how to use the spoon to get a puff on it, then dump the puff in the empty bowl. After showing him the process 2-3 times, I gave him back his spoon and sat back to see what he'd do.
I really didn't expect much out of this little experiment. I figured he'd have fun playing, and maybe eventually over time get the concept. So imagine my shock and surprise when he not only made obvious efforts to use the spoon to move puffs from one bowl to the other, but was actually successful in doing so several times. It is so, so true how we too often expect too little of our little ones, and how often they amaze us with the hidden abilities that come out when we allow them to. Sure, there was a lot of playing and spreading puffs places OTHER than either bowl, but the fact that he "got" the idea of my little "experiment" and was able to be successful at it, blows me away.
To follow up, this morning D hurt his finger so we tried to get him to put his hand in a bowl of water with a couple of ice cubes in it to help prevent/slow any swelling. A spoon happened to be sitting near his reach at the table, and he immediately grabbed it and tried to scoop one of the ice cubes in the water with the spoon! He then started spooning water out of the bowl and onto the table. lol So, still a huge, horrible mess, BUT a very exciting one.
We'll still need to work on the whole getting-spoon-to-mouth bit, as well, but at least with this little exercise he's practicing using a spoon and practicing the hand coordination necessary to get the spoon to do what he wants. In other words.. it's a start. ; )