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Developmental Progression of

Oral Motor & Self-Feeding Skills


Age  Oral-Motor Skills Self-feeding Photo
Birth – 2 months Latches onto nipple

Coordinated suck-swallow-breathe pattern during breast/bottle feeds

2-4 Months Begins to put hands on breast/bottle during
4-6 Months Automatic suck becomes more voluntary

Spoon feeding introduced. Sucking pattern used with spoon

Starts to accept pureed baby foods and cereals

May begin holding own bottle with both hands

Actively participates in meal by opening mouth in anticipation

Cup drinking may be introduced

7-9 Months Lip closure around spoon

Can begin to drink from an open cup

Begins to bite soft solid food voluntarily (soft cookie)

Chews food with an up/down motion (munching pattern)



Can hold own bottle when drinking

Begins to hold own food and starts to finger feed solids

Uses “raking” or “scooping” motion with fingers to secure pieces of food, usually successful

Begins to use inferior pincer grasp (thumb and side of index finger) to pick up small food items

10-12 Months Begins to take controlled bite of soft cookie

Begins to move food from one side of mouth to other (beginning of “rotary” chew pattern)

Independent finger feeding

Begins to use thumb and tip of index finger (“neat pincer” grasp) to pick up small food items and finger-feed

Holds spoon to play, bang, mouth

13-15 Months Starting to close lips while chewing

Learning to make controlled bites on hard cookie

Dips spoon in food

Brings spoon to mouth, turns spoon over but obtains some food


16-18 Months Improved control of liquid within mouth Holds cup and drinks from cup independently
18-24 Months Chews food completely with “rotary” jaw movements

Able to chew a wide range of textures

Uses spoon independently to self-feed


2 – 3 Years Can use tongue to clean lips

Can drink from straw with lips (vs. biting straw while drinking)

By 30 months, can drink from small open cup using one hand

By 36 months, can use a fork to pierce soft foods and bring to mouth

3-4 Years Swallows food in mouth before taking another bite Serves self at table (can pour and scoop without spilling)

Holds cup with one hand while holding straw with other hand to drink

4 to 5 Years Can spread soft substances with a plastic/child-safe knife
5 to 6 Years Can cut foods with a knife under supervision (dull knife or slightly serrated, not sharp)
5 1/2 to 6 1/2 Years Can cut with a fork and knife (entire process of holding utensils, controlling and cutting food, and bringing to mouth)