Any bite-size, easy-to-eat pieces of food that your baby can pick up and eat by himself qualify as a finger food. Eating finger food is fun for your baby, and an important step towards independence that also helps him develop his fine motor skills and coordination.
When should I introduce finger foods to my baby?
When your baby’s between 8 and 9 months old, she’ll probably let you know that she’s ready to start feeding herself – by grabbing the spoon you’re feeding her with or snatching food off your plate.
(Note that some parents introduce finger foods at 6 months. They skip the spoon-feeding phase and allow their child to grasp soft food and feed herself. To learn more about this technique, read our article on baby-led weaning.)
At first, your baby may just rake food into her hand and bring it to her mouth, but eventually she’ll figure out how to use her thumb and forefinger to pick up food. This fine motor skill is called the pincer grasp.
How should I introduce finger foods to my baby?
Simply scatter four or five pieces of finger food onto your baby’s highchair tray or an unbreakable plate. You can add more pieces of food as your baby eats them.
Feeding your baby in a highchair rather than in a car seat or stroller will reduce the risk of choking and teach him that a highchair is the place to eat.
Which foods make the best finger foods?
Your baby may have a good appetite, but she probably doesn’t have many teeth, so start with foods that she can gum or that will dissolve easily in her mouth. As she grows into a toddler, you’ll be able to give her bite-size pieces of whatever you’re eating.
Remember that your baby’s learning about food’s texture, color, and aroma as she feeds herself, so try to offer her a variety. Resist the temptation to give your baby sweets like cookies and cake or high-fat snacks like cheese puffs and chips. Your baby needs nutrient-rich foods now, not empty calories.
The food should be easy to handle but not present a choking hazard. Vegetables should be cooked so they’re soft enough to mush easily, and everything should be cut into tiny pieces. Even a whole grape is too big for your baby right now and could be a choking hazard.
And be sure to choose food that’s appropriate for his age. Experts used to say you shouldn’t give very young children eggs, fish, or peanut products because the child might develop a food allergy. But the latest research from the American Academy of Pediatrics found there’s no evidence that babies develop allergies from the early introduction of these foods. (Though peanut butter is still off-limits for babies – it is too sticky to swallow safely at this age.)
Still, some doctors recommend caution when it comes to introducing foods. If you’re concerned that your child might have an allergy to certain foods, introduce them one by one and keep an eye out for an allergic reaction.
Here’s a list of finger food favourites:
- O-shaped toasted oat cereal or other low-sugar cereal
- Small pieces of lightly toasted bread or bagels (spread with vegetable puree for extra vitamins)
- Small chunks of banana or other very ripe peeled and pitted fruit, like mango, plum, pear, peach, cantaloupe, or seedless watermelon
- Small cubes of tofu
- Well-cooked pasta spirals, cut into pieces
- Very small chunks of soft cheese
- Chopped hard-boiled egg
- Mashed stewed prunes
- Small pieces of well-cooked vegetables, like carrots, peas, zucchini, potato, or sweet potato
- Small well-cooked broccoli or cauliflower “trees”
- Pea-size pieces of cooked chicken, ground beef or turkey, or other soft meat