Help your little one gain a sense of independence with our guide to finger foods
Between the ages of six months and a year, your baby will change in so many ways – from starting to babble to learning to crawl. Along with these physical developments, from six months your little one will experience one of the most fundamental changes – moving from a milk-only diet to eating solid food. You’ll see their hand-eye coordination improve rapidly, as they grab the chance to feed themselves for the first time. Finger foods are great for nurturing this growing independence. So here are our tips for how to choose the right ones for your baby’s age and stage.
From six months
At the beginning, weaning is all about your baby exploring new tastes and textures with their hands and mouth. They’ll be able to palm objects and bring them to their mouths – not always hitting the target! While they can grip with their fingers, they won’t be able to master the more precise pincer grip yet. But don’t worry, that will come with time. Until then, the finger foods you choose will have to be scooped up in their palms. Cue lots of wiping mucky hands. And floors. And walls.
Try these finger foods: The best shape and size to start with is a baton the size of your index finger, so cooked carrot and parsnip batons are ideal. Or try small soft pieces of soft fruit like banana, mango or melon. If you’re on the go, try Ella’s Kitchen Melty Puffs for a fun, tasty and organic snack. They’re just the right size and shape for little hands to grab hold of. And there’s no added sugar, salt or additives.
At seven months
At this stage your little one can more accurately curl their fingers around a food and transfer it between their hands. But it’s still important to keep it relatively chunky. Keep pieces of food soft, easy to chew, and large enough to poke out of their palm so they can munch on it. They will also have learnt the art of saying ‘no’ by pushing away things. But even if they don’t like it now, stay positive and remember it can take up to eight times for your baby to accept a new food or flavour. Another ‘fun’ development is that they begin to understand cause and effect – if they drop something, you’ll pick it up. Again and again. Oh, and again.
Try these finger foods: You can start to add a bit more texture now so try a finger of toast, a firm stick of cheese or a slice of hard-boiled egg. Cooked stems of broccoli or cauliflower and some slices of kiwi are also great foods to try out.
At nine months
At this age, your baby will have started to master the pincer grip and grabbing things between their forefinger and thumb – a much more accurate way of getting food to their mouth. But still be ready with the wipes while your little one masters this new technique. As their confidence grows, you’ll also be able to add more textured food to their diet. This will give them something to chew on with any new teeth that have popped out. It’s a great time to experiment with different tastes to get them used to as much variety as possible.
Try these finger foods: You can now introduce smaller finger foods to help them practice their pincer grip such as blueberries and chunks of strawberries. You could also try cooked peas and sweetcorn as well as those with even more of a bite – breadsticks are a great choice. Chunks of cheese, mini sandwiches and a range of fruit and veg cut into handy sticks are great for this age too.
If your baby is progressing well, from 10-12 months, you can start to introduce well-cooked strips of meat and fish too.
Remember that your baby must never be left alone while eating, must be seated in an upright position and, once they are finished, be sure to check to their cheeks for any lumps of uneaten food.
The Department of Health recommends starting weaning at around six months. Before this age, your baby’s digestive system may not be ready. Seek advice from a healthcare professional if you are considering weaning before six months.