Blacksburg mother develops tool to help kids self-feed successfully

BLACKSBURG (WSLS 10) -- As a mother of three, Kiyah Duffey knows the challenges that come with teaching a little one to feed herself.

As a nutritionist, she also knows the importance.

"It's a time we now increasingly know and have evidence to show, it's really critical in terms of establishing these habits and patterns and food preferences that carry through childhood and into adulthood," Duffey said.

Habits, she explained, that are often influenced by the ease in which a child learns to self-feed with utensils.

"Most kids when they're learning to eat, they grab spoons this way with their palm facing down," she demonstrated.

Traditional utensils, Duffey said -- even kid sized ones -- make it harder for little hands with developing fine motor skills to maneuver.

That's what initiated Duffey's development of Kizingo. The name Kizingo means curved in Swahili and honors the period of exploration and discovery when children are learning to eat solid foods.

The company's first product is a unique alternative to traditional utensils. The brightly colored spoons have a shorter, wider handle than their traditional counterparts.

"This makes it easier for them to grasp and when they're holding it like this, the ball of the spoon is curve towards them," Duffey said.

It faces the child and works with the motion she wants to make to successfully feed herself. That prevents parents from then feeding-- and often unintentionally-- over feeding their little ones in an effort to make sure they're getting enough.

"When we do that, kids, the ability that they have from birth to listen to those internal signals of fullness, they lose that ability to hear that."

Providing the right tool for successful self-feeding in that critical period could help reduce a growing trend. Two out of three children are overweight or obese in America today by the time they are 5-years-old, Duffey said. About 60% of them will remain overweight throughout childhood and even into adulthood.

She also points to research that shows kids who self-feed early tend to be less picky eaters.

"They are more adventurous in their eating which tends to mean that they have a greater variety in their diet. We know that that's associated with the number of positive health outcomes."

It's an effort by Duffey to way help other parents establish healthy habits for their children early on.

Kizingo spoons will be available for sale at a launch party at Imaginations Toys and Furniture in Blacksburg Saturday from 10:30 am to 1:00 pm.

They can also be purchased online.

Duffey says additional products are being developed.