Finger foods are a great way to introduce your child to new flavors and textures, and to encourage them to feed themselves. But with so many options available, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. In this blog post, we’ll give you some tips on the best finger foods to offer your baby, based on their age and ability to chew and swallow.
We’ll also cover some foods to avoid, and how to teach your baby to chew safely. Plus, we’ll cover the difference between baby-led weaning and finger foods, and how to transition your child from purees to finger foods. Keep reading to learn more!
What are Finger Foods?
Finger foods are small, bite-sized pieces of food that can easily be picked up and eaten with the fingers. They are designed for infants and toddlers who are learning how to feed themselves and are not yet able to use utensils. Finger foods can include a wide range of foods, from soft fruits and vegetables to small pieces of cooked meat and cheese.
Finger foods are an important part of a child’s development, as they help to promote hand-eye coordination and encourage the child to explore different textures and flavors. They also help to develop the child’s fine motor skills, as they learn to pick up small items and bring them to their mouths. Finger foods are also a great way for babies and toddlers to learn about different foods and flavors, and can help to increase their appetite and willingness to try new things.
How Do You Know When Your Baby is Ready to Eat Finger Foods?
Your baby may be ready for finger foods when they are able to sit upright in a highchair and are showing an interest in food. This usually occurs around 6-8 months of age, but every child is different. Some babies may be ready for finger foods earlier or later than others.
There are a few signs that your baby may be ready for finger foods:
- They have good head control and can sit upright in a highchair
- They can bring their hands to their mouth and pick up small objects
- They show an interest in food and are able to coordinate their eyes and hands to reach for food
- They are able to swallow food without gagging
It’s important to remember that every child is different, and it’s okay if your child is not ready for finger foods at the same age as others. It’s important to watch your child’s cues and start introducing finger foods when they are ready.
What are the Best Finger Foods to Start Your Baby On?
When starting your baby on finger foods, it’s important to choose foods that are soft and easy for them to chew and swallow. Some good options for finger foods to start your baby on include:
- Soft fruits and vegetables, such as sliced bananas, avocado, and cooked sweet potatoes
- Soft, cooked meats, such as chicken or turkey
- Soft, cooked grains, such as quinoa or cooked pasta
- Soft cheese, such as mozzarella or cheddar
- Soft beans, such as cooked lentils or chickpeas
It’s important to make sure that the foods you offer are soft and easy for your baby to chew and swallow. Avoid offering hard or crunchy foods, as these may be difficult for your baby to chew and may pose a choking hazard.
Are there any finger foods you should avoid giving your baby?
There are a few types of finger foods that you should avoid giving to your baby:
- Hard or crunchy foods, such as raw vegetables or hard candies, as these may pose a choking hazard
- Nuts, seeds, and small, round foods, such as grapes or cherry tomatoes, as these may also pose a choking hazard
- Popcorn and chips, as these may be difficult for your baby to chew and may break into small pieces that could be swallowed whole or cause choking
- Foods that are too salty or sweet, as these may not be good for your baby’s developing taste buds and could lead to a preference for unhealthy foods
Does Your Baby Need Teeth to Chew Finger Foods?
No, your baby does not need teeth to chew finger foods. In fact, finger foods can help to promote the development of your baby’s teeth, as they stimulate the gums and help to prepare the mouth for solid foods. However, it’s important to make sure that the finger foods you offer are soft and easy for your baby to chew, as hard or crunchy foods may be difficult for them to chew and may pose a choking hazard.
It’s important to remember that all babies are different and will develop at their own pace. Some babies may be ready for finger foods before they get their first tooth, while others may not be ready until they have a full set of teeth. It’s important to observe your baby’s abilities and readiness for finger foods and to always supervise them when they are eating.
Can You Start Your Baby on Finger Foods Before 10 Months?
It’s generally recommended to wait until your baby is around 6-8 months old before introducing finger foods. This is because babies are not developmentally ready for solid foods before this age, and they may not have the necessary skills to chew and swallow finger foods safely. However, every child is different, and if your baby is showing an interest in food and is able to sit upright in a highchair, it may be okay to start introducing finger foods earlier. It’s important to talk to your child’s healthcare provider before starting your baby on finger foods, as they can provide guidance on when it’s appropriate to start.
Best Baby Finger Foods for Babies & Toddlers
As your baby grows and becomes more adept at eating finger foods, you can start to introduce a wider variety of foods. Some good finger food options for babies and toddlers include:
- Soft fruits, such as sliced peaches, pears, or mangos
- Soft vegetables, such as cooked broccoli or green beans
- Soft cooked grains, such as oatmeal or cooked rice
- Small pieces of cooked meat, such as chicken or turkey
- Small pieces of cheese, such as mozzarella or cheddar
- Soft beans, such as cooked lentils or chickpeas
It’s important to remember to offer a variety of foods to your baby and toddler, as this can help to expose them to different flavors and textures and encourage a healthy and diverse diet.
If Your Baby is Not Fully Ready, Can You Switch Between Purees and Finger Foods?
Yes, if your baby is not fully ready for finger foods, it’s okay to switch between purees and finger foods. You can offer purees as a main source of nutrition and gradually introduce finger foods as your baby becomes more comfortable and skilled at eating them. It’s important to watch your baby’s cues and offer a mix of purees and finger foods based on their needs and abilities.
If you’re still worried about offering finger foods, keep in mind that the AAP recommends starting solids around 6 months. The amount of time it takes for a baby to get used to eating finger foods will vary from child to child. Some babies may take a few weeks while others may take months.
When and how should I add spices in my baby’s food
Introducing your baby to spices can add flavor to their diet without adding unnecessary sugar and salt, according to registered dietitians Shahzadi Devje and Andrea Carpenter. As long as your baby doesn’t have a reaction to any spice, it is safe to begin introducing them at six months old.
Devje recommends starting with mild spices like coriander, mild curry powder, nutmeg, turmeric, black pepper, cumin, fennel, dill, oregano, and thyme, and suggests using small amounts to prevent stomach upset. It is also safer to use powdered spices rather than whole spices to prevent choking.
You can try adding mild curry powder and coriander to lentils or curries, or adding cinnamon and nutmeg to fruits, veggies, and oatmeal. Remember to introduce spices one at a time, waiting three to five days before adding a new one, to ensure your baby doesn’t have a reaction.
Why Is It Important to Transition to Finger Foods?
Transitioning to finger foods is an important part of a child’s development, as it helps to promote hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, and independence. Finger foods also allow children to explore different flavors and textures and to learn about different types of food. This can help to increase their appetite and willingness to try new things.
It is important for infants and young children to transition to finger foods for a number of reasons. Here are a few:
- Developmental milestones: As children grow and develop, they become more able to use their hands to explore and manipulate objects. This is an important milestone that helps with the development of their fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and dexterity.
- Independence: Transitioning to finger foods allows children to feed themselves and gain a sense of independence and control over their own meals. This can be an important step in the process of developing self-regulation and self-care skills.
- Nutrition: Finger foods can help children learn to enjoy a variety of textures and flavors, which can encourage them to try new foods and expand their palate. This can be important for ensuring that they are getting the nutrients they need to grow and develop.
- Socialization: Eating together as a family can be an important social activity, and finger foods can make it easier for children to participate in this activity. It can also be a good opportunity for children to practice their social skills, such as taking turns and sharing.
Best Finger Foods for Baby by Age
Baby’s first foods are an exciting milestone. After all the anticipation and waiting, your little one is finally ready to start exploring new tastes and textures.
Here’s a look at the typical timeline for introducing solid foods — and what you can expect along the way:
4 to 6 Months: Baby starts trying solid foods
Your baby may be ready for solid foods as early as 4 months or as late as 6 months. If you’re breastfeeding, continue to nurse on demand until your baby shows interest in solid food. Once he starts eating solids, continue nursing until he’s at least 1 year old or longer if both of you want this continued feeding relationship.
6 Months: Baby begins eating cereal
Start with iron-fortified infant cereal (once your pediatrician gives the okay) mixed with breast milk or formula. Avoid adding sugar to cereals until they’re 1 year old; instead add fruit puree or mashed fruit.
7 to 8 Months: Baby explores more texture and tastes
Once your baby has mastered cereal, try strained fruits and vegetables like peaches, plums or carrots (again once your pediatrician gives permission). Offer small amounts at first so that your baby gets used to different textures and tastes. You can gradually increase the amount as your baby gets more comfortable with solids. You can also try mashed or pureed meats, such as chicken or turkey, for a source of protein.
9 to 10 Months: Baby can eat more varied foods
At this stage, your baby may be able to handle more textured and chunkier foods. You can try offering small pieces of soft cooked fruits and vegetables, as well as small pieces of soft bread and noodles (but be careful with round noodles as they can be a choking hazard). You can also introduce cooked pasta (cut into small pieces), yogurt, and soft scrambled eggs.
10 to 12 Months: Baby becomes a more experienced eater
As your baby approaches their first birthday, they may be able to eat more varied and higher-fiber foods. You can try introducing small chunks of soft cheese, small chunks of tofu, and small pieces of cooked chicken or other meats. You can also offer whole milk, soft cooked beans, and small pieces of cooked fish.
Remember, every baby is different and will progress at their own pace. It’s important to introduce new foods gradually, watching for signs of allergies or sensitivities. It’s also important to provide a variety of foods to ensure that your baby is getting a balanced diet. Consult with a healthcare provider before introducing new foods to your baby for guidance and recommendations based on your baby’s specific needs and development.
How to Teach Baby to Chew
Teaching your baby to chew is an important part of their development, as it helps to promote the development of their teeth and prepare them for solid foods. Here are a few tips for teaching your baby to chew:
- Start with soft foods: Offer your baby soft foods that are easy to chew, such as cooked fruits and vegetables, cooked grains, and soft beans. Avoid hard or crunchy foods, as these may be difficult for your baby to chew and may pose a choking hazard.
- Encourage your baby to chew: Offer your baby small pieces of food and encourage them to bring the food to their mouth and chew it. You can also demonstrate how to chew by chewing in front of your baby.
- Be patient: It may take your baby some time to learn how to chew, so be patient and offer plenty of encouragement.
- Supervise your baby while they are eating: Always supervise your baby while they are eating, especially when they are first learning how to chew. This will help to ensure that they are able to chew and swallow their food safely.
Difference Between Baby-Led Weaning and Finger Foods?
Baby-led weaning is a method of introducing solid foods to your baby that involves allowing the baby to feed themselves with their hands, rather than being spoon-fed pureed foods.
Finger foods are small, bite-sized pieces of food that can be easily picked up and eaten with the fingers, and are often used as part of the baby-led weaning process. The main difference between baby-led weaning and finger foods is the method of feeding – with baby-led weaning, the baby feeds themselves with their hands, while with finger foods, the parent may offer the food to the baby and assist with feeding.
Baby-led weaning is a popular approach to introducing solid foods, as it allows babies to explore different foods and textures at their own pace and can help to promote their development and independence. However, it’s important to make sure that the finger foods you offer are appropriate for your baby’s age and ability to chew and swallow safely. It’s also important to supervise your baby while they are eating to ensure their safety.
Fruits for Finger Foods
Some good options for finger foods made from fruit include:
- Soft, ripe fruit, such as sliced bananas, peaches, or mangoes
- Small, soft pieces of cooked fruit, such as cooked apples or pears
- Soft, ripe berries, such as sliced strawberries or raspberries
It’s important to make sure that the fruit is soft and easy for your baby to chew and swallow, as hard or crunchy fruit may pose a choking hazard.
The dangers of choking on finger foods
Although most babies can chew and swallow solid foods by six months of age, it takes about a year for them to master chewing skills – so there’s still time for mistakes!
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 30 children under the age of four die each year in the United States from choking on food, and another 13,000 are treated in emergency departments for nonfatal choking episodes related to food.
Most babies who choke on finger foods do so because they try to swallow small bits whole without first chewing them thoroughly. When you consider how babies learn new abilities, this makes sense. They begin with something simple that they can readily master before progressing to something more difficult.
Offering your baby nibbles or finger food before he has mastered chewing well enough may lead him down this route, which can be disastrous if he chokes.
However, even when babies are ready to begin eating finger foods, they are not necessarily ready to do so without assistance. Indeed, many experts advise parents to feed their newborns finger meals for the first few months – until they’ve mastered chewing solid foods well enough.
Eating Table Foods to Teach Your Baby
It’s important to offer your baby a variety of foods to help expose them to different flavors and textures and encourage a healthy and diverse diet. You can introduce your baby to table foods by offering them small pieces of food that are soft and easy for them to chew and swallow. Some good options for table foods to offer your baby include:
- Soft fruits and vegetables, such as sliced bananas, avocado, or cooked sweet potatoes
- Soft, cooked grains, such as cooked rice or pasta
- Soft, cooked meats, such as chicken or turkey
- Soft beans, such as cooked lentils or chickpeas
- Small pieces of cheese
- Soft, cooked eggs, such as scrambled eggs or a soft-boiled egg
It’s important to watch your baby’s cues and offer table foods that are appropriate for their age and ability to chew and swallow. Avoid offering hard or crunchy foods, as these may be difficult for your baby to chew and may pose a choking hazard.
Finger foods are small, bite-sized pieces of food that can be easily picked up and eaten with the fingers, and are an important part of a child’s development. They help to promote hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, and independence, and can also expose children to different flavors and textures and encourage a healthy and diverse diet.
It’s generally recommended to wait until your baby is around 6-8 months old before introducing finger foods, but every child is different. It’s important to watch your child’s cues and offer finger foods that are appropriate for their age and ability to chew and swallow safely.
When introducing finger foods, it’s important to choose foods that are soft and easy for your baby to chew and swallow, and to avoid hard or crunchy foods, small, round foods, and foods that may trigger allergies. It’s also important to supervise your baby while they are eating to ensure their safety.