Babies can be introduced to finger foods whenever they are ready for it. The time to introduce finger foods varies from one baby to another. Most babies are ready for finger foods at around 8-10 months. By this time, they have developed fine motor skills, and will try and grab food off the plate. Their ‘pincer grip’, involving grasping objects with the thumb and index finger, will enable them to pick up tiny food items, and feed themselves. At this stage babies love experimenting with different food textures. The food most of the time won’t enter the mouth. However, finger feeding should be encouraged as it facilitates hand-to-mouth coordination.
Ideally, the foods that come under the ‘finger foods’ category are those which can be picked up easily, and mashed between the baby’s gums. To introduce baby finger foods, one can simply place the finger food on an unbreakable plate or onto the baby’s high chair tray. It is advisable to feed the baby in a high chair, as it reduces the risk of choking. While introducing finger foods, introduce them one at a time, and then gradually add new items as well. The baby should be offered a variety of textures and colors to touch, smell and feel. There are various kinds of baby finger foods that one can offer the baby. If the baby shows some dislike towards a particular type of baby food, then try giving the same food after a couple of weeks. Babies’ tastes change all the time, and they might find it yummy later on.
Good Baby Finger Foods
Good baby finger foods are those which can be made into tiny soft bits which dissolve or melt easily in the mouth. Fruits, vegetables, meat and cheese that make lovely baby finger foods are as follows:
Vegetable Finger Foods:Vegetables make good finger foods, however, they have to be cooked soft, peeled and de-seeded before giving them to the baby. Soft-baked sweet potato and white potato dices make good baby finger foods. Then small dices of soft-cooked carrots, peas, green beans, broccoli are also great finger foods for a 9 month old baby. Acorn squash or small bits of baked butternut is also great!
Fruit Finger Foods:Small dices of melon, ripe banana, ripe pears and avocado form perfect baby finger foods. To reduce the slippery texture of the fruit, one can roll the fruit in oatmeal or powdered cereal. Tiny bits of ripe mango, squished blueberries, dices of soft-baked peaches and kiwi are also good for babies.
Meat and Dairy Finger Foods: Soft-cooked pasta, scrambled egg yolks and small bits of soft cheese can be given as finger foods. Moreover, small dices and shreds of soft-cooked fish, chicken, turkey or beef are great when mixed with the baby’s favorite puree. Tofu cubes can be coated with cereal powder, diced into tiny cubes and given to the baby.
Baby Finger Food Recipes
Some of the simple baby finger recipes that can be tried out are as follows:
Ingredients: Ripe bananas (2) and pancake batter
Preparation: Make thin slices of the bananas and coat them with pancake batter. Next, lightly fry them in a pan until golden brown. The pancake is ready!
Sweet Potato Fries:
Ingredients: Large sweet potatoes (6) and olive oil
Preparation: Scrub, clean, peel and cut the sweet potato into small strips. Preheat the oven to 400° F. Into a bowl, add ¼ cup of olive oil, cinnamon, ginger and a pinch of brown sugar. Add the potato pieces into the oil mixture, and allow them to get drenched in the oil. Toss these oil-drenched pieces onto the baking sheet and bake for 35 minutes (until tender). After baking, the potato pieces will have a crispy outer layer, while the inner portion remains mushy.
As the baby grows into a toddler, one can introduce small bite-sized food items of whatever one is eating. One should ensure that the food is easy to handle, and does not present a choking hazard. It is advisable not to introduce finger foods to babies who haven’t started sitting without support. To avoid the risk of choking, it is best to wait till the baby is able to sit without support. Baby finger foods must be soft enough to divide into small pieces, and easy to swallow for the baby.