The best finger foods for baby are anything that baby can pick up with their hands and eat themselves.
An exciting and slightly unnerving time.
It’s easy to get swept up in the doubts but never fear!
There are lots of finger foods out there that are simple to prepare, infinitely variable, and won’t make too much of a mess.
But hey, what’s a bit of mess when baby is learning the art of self-feeding!
Lean into it mama, we’re entering those first stages of independence and food awareness.
We’re set to take you through the whens, whats, and hows of finger foods for baby inspired by questions from our growing Peanut community.
Tie that apron, chef, and meet us in the kitchen! 👩🍳
In this article 📝
- What are finger foods for baby?
- When should I give my baby finger foods?
- How do you introduce finger foods to babies?
- What are the best finger foods for baby?
- What finger foods should babies avoid?
What are finger foods for baby?
Finger foods are so much more than a fun sideshow to classic pureed baby food.
No matter if you’re big on the purees, leading the spoon-feeding choo choo train, or practicing baby-led weaning (BLW), finger foods will eventually become a vital step on baby’s journey towards eating like a big kid.
And it’s not just that they play a crucial role in helping baby learn to like new textures and flavors – or figure out what they don’t like.
They also help with hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.
Talk about reframing playing with your food (applies to babies only).
And if you’re interested in adopting the baby-led weaning (BLW) approach, finger foods plays a key role right from the start.
When should I give my baby finger foods?
A good rule of thumb is when baby starts to show signs of readiness. 💪
Sometimes waiting too long can lead to increased pickiness.
Look out for these signs that baby can handle finger foods:
- They can sit up (assisted or unassisted): Once baby has some good head and trunk control, it’s okay to start solids if they are still supported sitting.
- They lean forward or open their mouth when food is offered.
- They can chew and swallow purees and/or mashed foods (even if they don’t have teeth yet): “The first teeth babies get are actually the front top and bottom ones”, Barnes explains, “which don’t help us much with chewing anyways! They can mash with their gums, and their molars are right below the surface”.
- They’re on their way to acing their pincer grasp: where they can hold things between finger and thumb (it doesn’t have to be perfect just yet).
Many mamas hold back on finger foods because of choking fears.
We feel you.
And you’ll definitely want to be there supervising.
But hesitating on the solids for too long can make things more difficult later on.
A better move is to show baby solid foods early (and often) to see whether they’re interested.
Just make sure everything’s soft and small enough to go down (more on that below).
How do you introduce finger foods to babies?
Here are some simple tips before we get into some finger food suggestions:
Cut finger foods to the right size
For firmer foods, aim for about the size of a pea.
If they are circular, like blueberries and beans, Barnes says “it’s best to squash the food”.
“It helps them get a head start on chewing and makes it so that a round, circular object couldn’t obstruct their windpipe”.
For softer textures, about the size of a marble.
This’ll help to minimize the choking risk.
That being said, it’s important to always have an attentive adult watching baby during meals.
Remove seeds or chewy things
If offering meat, take the fat and bones out first.
The same goes for the seeds or stones in fruit.
Choose your moment
Offer finger foods when baby is a little bit hungry but not hangry yet.
“It’s often best to offer formula or breast milk about 30 minutes before offering solids”, Barnes suggests.
“That way they aren’t too hungry and won’t get frustrated when they can’t take in many solids yet”.
And if they do get frustrated, help them out.
“Hand-over-hand is a helpful technique where you use your hand to help the baby pick up the food with their fingers”, Barnes says.
And if they’re just not interested, feed them the purees or mashes you already know they like.
Let them hold the spoon
Finger foods don’t need to be solid.
In fact, purees are technically solids, too!
“Think about all the purees we still eat as adults,” Barnes notes, “guacamole, hummus, and applesauce can all be great ‘solids’ options for babies too!”
If baby’s interested, letting them fly their own spoon-airplane can give them a bit of independence.
Keep an eye on safety
Supervising baby while they eat will always be important.
Always be within arms reach of your baby while they are eating, and make sure you watch them take bites.
Also, keep in mind that gagging is to be expected and doesn’t mean food is obstructing their windpipe.
As opposed to choking, gagging typically occurs while the food is still in baby’s mouth.
It can happen when food touches their gag reflex, or even when they try a new flavor.
All totally normal and an essential part of baby learning to chew.
“It’s actually a protective mechanism against choking”, Barnes explains, “so it’s good for them to learn how to get food back up that isn’t going down right.”
Be led by baby
Baby’s the boss. 😎
If they don’t want to eat something this time around, that’s okay.
You can try again tomorrow.
It could take many, many tries before they accept a new food.
What are the best finger foods for baby?
The finger foods you choose for your baby will depend on their age.
But a good start would be any foods that baby can easily gum or will dissolve before they swallow.
This keeps any risk of choking to a minimum and allows you to lean into the experience with peace of mind.
Try starting with the food they’re used to eating in puree form.
That way baby is comfortable with the flavors and can just focus on getting used to the texture.
Some easy finger food ideas include anything with a softer texture like ripe bananas, avocados, or steamed carrots. 🥕
What finger foods can I give my six-month-old?
Here’s our Peanut mom-approve best finger foods checklist for a six-month-old:
- Cooked strips of veg: Broccoli, carrots, or sweet potato cooked until mushy 🍠
- Soft fruits: Bananas, chopped blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, strips of melon, mango, peach, or plums. Boiled or steamed apple or pear is also highly recommended 🍐
- Starchy foods: Soft toast, boiled potato, very well-cooked pasta shells or bow-ties 🍝
- Proteins: Cooked meats like strips of turkey, chicken, or ham (remember to remove bones and chewy fat). Small cubes of tofu is another alternative 🌱
- Dairy: Small, flattened pieces of pasteurized cheese 🧀
Even scrambled eggs are fine from six months!
What finger foods can I give my eight-month-old?
If you’re just starting with finger foods for an eight-month-old, you can try any of the foods mentioned above.
But as baby gets used to things, a range of textures and flavors is a great way to give them lots of eating experience.
Raw, very thin matchsticks of cucumber, a strip of melted cheese on bread, slices of soft-cooked butternut squash – all are excellent options for expanding your finger food menu.
Keep on exploring together to see what they like, dislike, and are curious about.
Remember, let baby lead you on this.
They’ll pleasantly surprise you.
What finger food can I give my ten-month-old?
At ten months old, baby can be eating three meals a day and getting to grips (literally!) with a range of finger foods.
At this age, it’s okay to start with crunchier foods, like
- Rice puffs or dried cereals like Cheerios
- Whole-grain crackers or wafers like teething biscuits
- Grapes (chopped in half lengthways to reduce the risk of choking)
- Homemade oat pancakes
What finger foods should babies avoid?
We’re all for experimenting in the kitchen and getting baby keen for great cuisine as early as possible.
But there are foods you might want to reconsider until a little further down the road.
A large number of these are due to a choking risk, such as:
- Chunky peanut butter 🥜
- Whole nuts or seeds
- Popcorn 🍿
- Dried fruit
- Granola or granola bars
- Hard fruit or vegetables
- Bony fish 🐟
There was a time when introducing potential allergen food to babies was a no-no.
This meant fish, peanut butter, and eggs being firmly off the baby high table.
But recent studies show that introducing allergenic food early may actually reduce the development of an allergy.
Still keeping a close eye is always recommended.
As for spacing out foods, experts like Barnes don’t actually recommend this approach anymore.
“It’s okay to serve multiple foods back to back without waiting days between,” Barnes explains.
“If you are serving a NEW allergen for the first time, it is wise to serve it without other allergens so that if there IS a reaction, you can identify why”.
If you want to play it super safe, talk to your primary healthcare provider before introducing any top food allergens.
At any age, eating together can be a great idea.
Babies learn by watching you, and mealtime is as much about being social and having fun together as it is about nutrition.
They also make great conversation starters on Peanut.
Tap in and find out!