When you start introducing solid foods to your little one, it’s a good idea to also offer finger foods for babies. For families who are practicing Baby Led Weaning (BLW), most of your little one’s foods will probably come in the form of finger foods. However, for those offering traditional purees and mashed/minced foods, finger foods may play slightly less of a role to begin with.
However, offering finger foods to your little one can help encourage developmental milestones as well as supporting nutrition and feeding practices.
Finger foods for babies can be useful as they:
- Help support Child Nutrition
- Allow children to experiment with food in different forms
- Help in the de-sensitisation of the gums and mouth
- Help baby to learn how to bite and chew
- Help to develop hand-eye coordination
- Help baby learn appropriate sizes of bite and swallow
- Help introduce new foods and textures
- Help teach baby to grip and hold pieces of food
- Encourage self-feeding and independence around eating
If you’re just starting to think about introducing foods to your little ones, it’s a good idea to try and offer a range of weaning methods including both finger foods and mashed/pureed and chopped foods too. Mixed feeding is a good way to make sure your baby is getting lots of variety, enjoying different textures and tastes and learning to self-feed – as well as use cutlery – right from word go.
Being safe with your baby’s finger foods
When first offering finger foods for babies, it’s best to start with softer finger foods that easily dissolve or break down in the mouth. Additionally, it’s important to remember to wash any fruits and vegetables you offer to baby and remove any tough peel, pips or seeds. Lastly, always sit with your baby when they are eating, especially when they have finger foods.
Many parents are cautious about offering finger foods to their baby for the first time, especially if they have no teeth. However, even with no teeth, babies gums are quite hard, as their teeth are just below the surface of the gums. As baby gets more familiar with foods, you’ll find they start to be able to cope with harder finger foods.
Examples of first finger foods for baby:
Many parents ask me for ideas for first finger foods for baby, so although some of these options may seem a little obvious, they are just there to give initial ideas. From 6 months of age, most well cooked foods are fine to offer to baby – check out my blog on Starting Solids for more info.
To start with, foods like avocado, banana and soft melon are good options to give babies as finger foods. Don’t be surprised if the first few times you offer these they end up on the floor. Introducing solids is all about letting your little one explore. Additionally remember not to focus on just fruits alone as children are quite happy to accept sweet tastes, but need to learn to love the taste of vegetables.
Vegetable Led Weaning:
Current scientific research suggests it’s a good idea to start your baby with vegetables as their first foods. Here are a few examples of ideal finger foods for vegetable lead weaning!
Vegetable first finger foods for baby:
- Broccoli florets
- Cauliflower florets
- Avocado (ok technically a fruit, but it’s not sweet and so a great first option)
- Cooked peppers (can remove the tough skin)
- Cooked carrots
- Cucumber (can remove the tough skin)
- Cooked green beans
- Cooked sweet potato
- Cooked courgette sticks
Most vegetables are fine for baby but it’s important to offer ones that they can cope with for their age and stage. For example harder vegetables may need to be cooked well, so they are nice and soft first before offering.
Throughout introducing solids (especially initially) it’s important to keep offering the less sweet options such as broccoli, avocado and beans, as research suggests this may help them to develop a liking for the taste of vegetables later on!
Other finger food options:
Once you’ve offered a nice variety of vegetables to your little one and they have been giving finger foods and purees for a week or so, you can start offering finger foods from other food groups too.
Fruit first finger foods for baby:
- Cooked apples (with skin removed)
- Pear (with tough skin removed)
- Peach slices
Most fruits are great to offer as finger foods. Avoid offering grapes initially and when offering them later, make sure they are well chopped, lengthways, to avoid possible choking.
Carbohydrate first finger foods for babies:
- Cooked potatoes
- Toast/bread fingers
- Soft pitta bread strips
- Baby breadsticks
- Cooked pasta shapes
- Pancake strips (no added sugar)
Some of these foods contain gluten. The Department of Health recommends waiting until 6 months of age (the recommended age to begin introducing solid foods) before introducing foods that can cause potential allergies, such as gluten.
Protein and iron first finger foods for baby:
- Eggs (hard boiled)
- Chicken pieces
- Broad beans
- Cheese pieces
- Omelette strips
- Strips of white fish
N.B. The Department of Health recommend wait until 6 months before offering foods such as egg, fish and dairy, in case of the risk of allergies. Thereafter it’s important that when you offer Finger Foods for Babies, they are well-cooked, all the way through.
Let me know if you have any questions or thoughts or even any additions to my list of finger foods to offer baby initially. Remember for little ones it’s ALL about variety!