How many times have you tried to give your baby a bite of his food and he reaches for the spoon, ready to do it himself? Probably just about every time you feed him. When your baby is about 9 months old, he has begun to develop the fine motor skills needed to start feeding himself. This is often a favorite (and very messy) activity for little ones. It’s important to remember that finger foods for babies don’t have to be bought in the baby food aisle. Many of the things we eat can be adapted for baby! This will reduce your worry about always having something for him to eat as well as expose your baby to a new foods and textures.
Allowing your baby to feed himself as much as possible will help to encourage independent, healthy eating habits. This gives your child some control over what, and how much, they eat. There will be days that he will clean his plate, and there will be days where everything ends up on the floor…but that’s okay! He is learning the process of self-regulation and learning to recognize when his tummy is full.
Rule number 1: Always try the food first.
Here is your finger foods checklist:
- Is it soft?
- Is it cooked enough so that it’s mushy? Overcook those veggies!
- Does it melt in your mouth? (Think puffs or Ritz crackers)
- Can you gum it? (i.e. eat it without teeth)
- Is it cut into small pieces?
Rule number 2: Give your baby a variety of foods.
It can take up to 10 times for a baby to accept a new food into their repertoire. Don’t give up if the avocado ends up on the floor the first 4 (or 7) times.
Rule number 3: let him get messy!
Food play is an important learning experience. You have similar nerve receptors on your tongue and fingers so playing with food will help your baby experience different textures and temperatures.
With those three rules in mind here is a list of great finger foods to try with your little one!
- Bananas-To make bananas easier to pick up, try dusting them in crushed Cheerios first.
- Mandarin orange/peach/pear cups.
- Grapes without the skin
- Blueberries-If they aren’t small enough, cut them in two.
- Watermelon (seedless, of course)
- Cooked veggies: zucchini, carrots, sweet potato, butternut squash, etc.
- Avocados or guacamole
- Extra soft pasta
- Small pieces of slow cooked or ground meats like meatballs, etc.
- O-shaped cereals
- Egg yolks-Once your baby is one year, they can have egg whites too. Try chopping up hard boiled eggs!
- Rice cakes
- Cheese-Start with something bland like mozzarella or cheddar.
- Waffles and pancakes
Remember, now that your baby is eating these foods, the biggest issue to avoid is choking. Make sure your baby is strapped into his high chair and your eyes are on him at all times when starting these finger foods. Don’t give him any foods that could get stuck in his throat: popcorn, raisins, raw veggies, fruit with hard skin, hot dogs, etc.
Have fun with it! Get creative! And, don’t think you can only give him “baby” food! If you have questions about your baby’s feeding, contact our Speech-Language Pathologists for answers.