They’re approaching the age when everything they touch goes in their mouth. Hopefully, some of what they put in will be tasty, nutritious food. With that in mind, let’s talk about finger foods for baby.
Baby finger foods are anything that baby can pick up with their hands and eat themselves.
Luckily, there are a lot of finger foods that are simple to prepare, infinitely variable, and won’t make too much of a mess.
Here, we’ll take you through the whens, whats, and hows of finger foods for baby. Tie that apron, chef, and meet us in the kitchen!
In this article 📝
- What are finger foods for baby?
- When can I give my baby finger foods?
- How to introduce finger foods
- What are the best finger foods for babies?
What are finger foods for baby?
Finger foods are any foods that baby can pick up and eat by themselves.
The move from choo-choo train spoon-feeding to self-feeding finger foods is a big step on their journey to eating like a big kid.
Turns out, finger foods aren’t just a fun sideshow to classic pureed baby food. In the long run, they have a pretty crucial role to play in helping baby learn to like new textures and flavors.
They’ll also help with their hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. There are big benefits to offering baby finger foods, even if it seems like all they do is play with their food at first.
You might have heard of something called baby-led weaning. This is a feeding strategy based on finger foods right from the start. If your baby is just starting on solids, you might also want to check it out here.
When can I give my baby finger foods?
There’s no perfect time to offer your baby their first finger foods.
Many mamas start from about six months, while others wait until eight or nine months.
Anytime in the second half of your baby’s first year is okay.
But when is baby ready for finger foods? It turns out this is much more about what baby can do than it is about the numbers. Look out for these signs that baby can handle finger foods:
- They can sit up straight on their own.
- 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).
- They’re on their way to acing their pincer grasp, where they can hold things between finger and thumb (although this doesn’t have to be perfect just yet).
Many mamas hold back on finger food because of fears of choking. 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 bet can be 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 to introduce finger foods
So, how can you encourage baby to eat finger foods? Here are some simple tips before we get on to some finger food suggestions:
- Cut things to the right size: For firmer foods, aim for about the size of a pea. For the softer textures, about the size of a marble. This’ll help to minimize the choking risk.
- 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. If they get frustrated, help them out. If they’re 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, by the way. If baby’s interested, letting them fly their own spoon-airplane can give them a bit of independence.
- Keep an eye on safety: Choking is pretty rare, but it can happen. Supervising baby while they eat will always be important. By the way, gagging is not the same as choking. Gagging happens when food touches their gag reflex, or even when they try a new flavor. It’s normal and your baby will sort it out on their own.
- Space out the new foods: Introduce new foods one at a time, and leave a gap of three to five days between each new food. This way, if they have a bad reaction to a certain food, you’ll be able to tell what it was.
- 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 babies?
The finger foods you choose for your baby will depend on their age. But a safe bet to start with would be:
- Something that can be gummed or that will dissolve before they swallow. This reduces any risk of choking.
- Something they’ve eaten before in puree form. That means they’re comfortable with the taste and just need to get used to the texture.
- Something with a softer texture. Ripe bananas, avocados, or steamed carrots are good options.
What finger foods can I give my six-month-old?
At six months old, start with the softer things:
- Cooked strips of veg: Broccoli, carrots, or sweet potato
- Soft fruits: Bananas, Chopped blueberries, raspberries, or strawberries, Strips of melon, mango, peach, or plums, Boiled or steamed apple or pear
- Starchy foods: Soft toast, Boiled potato, Well-cooked pasta
- Proteins: Cooked meats, like strips of turkey, chicken, or ham (remember to remove bones and chewy fat), Small cubes of tofu
- Dairy: Small cubes of pasteurized cheese
What finger foods can I give my eight-month-old?
If you’re just starting with finger foods for an eight-month-old, try any of the foods we 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.
If baby’s been eating different things since six months, keep on exploring together to see what they like, dislike, and are curious about. Remember to let baby lead you on this.
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, such as:
- Grapes (chopped in half lengthways to reduce the risk of choking)
By the way, 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.
Good luck with finger foods for babies, mama! You’ve got this.