The age at which a baby is ready for finger foods varies. Mom may have already introduced her little one to solids by feeding her pureed foods, or she may have decided on baby led weaning where she goes straight to finger foods. Either way, most children are introduced to finger foods at around the seven or eight-month mark.
To tell if your child is ready you need to look for three things. First of all your new eater must be able to sit upright unassisted. You should never give finger foods to a child who cannot support themselves. Secondly, your little one should be able to “chew” with their gums. Teeth are not a requirement for finger foods but the ability to have a little chomping action to squish food up is. Finally, your baby needs to have the ability to firmly grasp and let go of objects, manipulate them without help and, ideally be willing to try and pick items up with their forefinger and thumb (the pincer grasp).
This list is by no means all you can offer your baby. If you are unsure about a finger food wait until your child is a little more practiced before offering it but there are a few things you can ask yourself before serving it:
- Is it cooked enough to go mushy in your mouth? Still crunchy, steamed veg may be very healthy but if it still crunches, do not give it to your baby.
- Is it soft without cooking? Foods such as tofu and soft cheeses are popular but ensure they do not have a high salt content. Untoasted bread does not count as it clumps together and can become a choking hazard.
- Will it melt in your mouth? Some cereals and cheese crackers are a good example, but they must be small enough for your little one to eat safely.
These are some of the most popular first finger-foods for your little one to try:
15 Banana Slices
If you are planning to offer your eager beaver some banana slices, there a couple of things to remember. Give the banana a bit of a squeeze first and make sure it is very ripe. No matter how tasty you might find a good firm fruit, it may be a bit too much for those little gums.
Instead, you should choose a fruit that is very ripe, but not yet turning black in the flesh, a few black spots on the peel are nothing to worry about. Strip off all of those annoying stringy bits that are left sticking to the banana after you have peeled it and cut some slices that are about the thickness of your little finger.
You can put them on a small plastic plate designed for a child’s first foods, but this is not necessary. You can place the slices directly onto the tray of your highchair, ensuring it is spotlessly clean first.
14 Cooked Peas
Cooked peas are an excellent choice for a first finger food. You can keep a bag of frozen peas handy in the freezer and portion out a small amount at a time, cooking them enough to warm them through but ensuring they are no more than warm to the touch when you serve them.
These little green nuggets of fun are the ideal thing for your baby to practice her evolving pincer grasp and not only that, peas are fun to pop too. Many little ones who have been offered pureed peas and refused them in the past, will be happy to eat whole cooked peas so do not let a previous refusal put you off serving them up again.
If your baby enjoys peas, it is also an excellent opportunity to bring them in their high chair and join the family at the dinner table. Your little one will benefit from the novelty of eating the same food as everyone else.
13 Small Peeled Peach Pieces
Fresh, in season fruits, are a wonderful way of introducing healthy finger foods at minimal cost. Peaches are juicy and sweet enough to encourage your little one to give them a try, but you do have to make sure you peel them and strip out any hint of the stringy area that you find around the pit.
To begin with chop the peaches into small cubes somewhere between the size of a dice and an ice cube. One you know your baby likes peach and has gained some skill and confidence eating finger foods you can move up to slices, roughly the thickness of your little finger.
If they are out of season or you cannot get hold of any, do not worry. Although fresh is best, there is nothing wrong with peaches in tubs or cans that you can store in the cupboard and have available year round. Make sure you buy the fruit in juice or water though and not the fruit in syrup. Not only does your baby not need the extra sugar but you would not believe the additional mess that something so wet and sugary makes.
A firm favorite for many parents and babies alike these little cereal O’s are a fantastic mobile food when your little fella has built up some skill with finger foods.
Begin with them in the same way as you would with other finger foods, offering small amounts and watching carefully to ensure your baby is eating them safely. This transition to something a little firmer is exciting for some infants and off-putting for others. Follow your child’s lead, and if they enjoy the cereal, you can try different brands and different varieties of grain for a range of tastes.
If your child refuses to try something as foreign and firm as some Cheerios, don’t worry. Leave it for a few days and try again.
A good tip is to buy the smallest box you can and, if nobody else in the family is likely to eat them, dispense small amounts into Ziploc bags to keep them fresh and to have easily served portions at your fingertips.
11 Avocado Slices
Avocados are often thought of as the perfect food because of the way they are packed full of nutrients. Overflowing with “good fats” these green gems are excellent for baby’s brain as well as a child’s body, and they are surprisingly versatile too.
These fats are good for your child and exactly what he will need at this stage of his development. Unless your child is under medical care and has very specific dietary needs, you should never restrict the healthy fats in his diet.
As with bananas, make sure your avocados are ripe and soft to the touch. If you start your baby on purees, avocados mash beautifully and can be mixed with fruits such as apple for a range of tastes.
Once you are at the finger food stage peeled, slices of avocado on their own are very healthy, and they can also be served with an apple sauce, or similar for dipping.
To freeze avocado, you can dip the peeled slices in a bath of 1/2 a cup of water and a couple of drops of lemon. Then lay the slices on parchment paper on a baking sheet and freeze. Once they are frozen, you can transfer them to bags for easier storage.
10 Cooked Lentils
Another fabulous food that the family and your little one can eat at the same time. To add to their appeal from a parent’s point of view they are packed, chock a block with fiber, iron, and protein as well as an entire alphabet of vitamins and minerals.
Yellow lentils are said to be exceptionally gentle on the digestive system while red lentils are thought to cause less gas, an important consideration if you have an already gassy baby.
You can start off by cooking them to an almost mushy consistency if your child is still quite new to solids and you can keep them a little firmer by boiling them in water with a dash of olive oil. Again, lentils are a magnificent “entry food” because if you choose to give your baby purees first, you can give them mashed lentil and the taste will make the transition to firmer foods more quickly if your child is not keen on solids.
9 Cooked Pasta
Pasta can be great fun for a baby. Now is not the time to cook al dente though, make sure those portions of pasta are good and floppy before serving them up to your budding junior gourmet.
The variety of shapes, sizes, and flavors of pasta available is almost endless. The best choice is to pick pasta with as few ingredients as possible, so you will not be serving your baby any additional preservatives, salt, etc.
Another plus to pasta is that you can coat it in a wide variety of sauces to give your child some different flavor experiences. A basic tomato sauce is very easy, and the chunks of tomato are fun to pick up, or a mixture of pasta and almost any of the other items on this list work well too. Pasta and peas with cubes of carrot were always a firm favorite in our kitchen.
8 Cooked Carrot
Sweet and tasty, available year round, easy to prepare and cook, what is there not to like about carrots? As with any fruit or vegetable, if you can get your hands on the fresh ones they are always the best choice, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with frozen or canned carrots, just check they are canned without salt, and you are ready to go.
It fact many canned carrots are so soft you can give them to your baby straight from the tin, without cooking them, although this does vary from brand to brand so be sure to check first.
For fresh and frozen carrots cook the vegetable until you can squish it easily between your forefinger and thumb. If there is resistance to that squash, cook it a little longer to ensure it is safe.
7 Small Tofu Cubes
Do not be afraid of the tofu; it is not just for crunchy veggie types, you and your baby can enjoy it too. Gone are the days when tofu was a strange rubbery lump that had no taste, and the only reason to avoid tofu entirely is if your baby has a soy allergy because Tofu is made from soybean curds.
Tofu is very high in protein and is an excellent substitute for meat, but like meat, you should wait until your baby is at least eight months old before giving it to them because it is a little harder to digest.
If you have a baby who is fussy about flavors and consistently refuses strongly flavor foods, tofu can be an excellent choice to get him into the swing of trying solids. As well as regular, plain, soft tofu there are many tofu products available that are flavored, usually with fruits, that you can then ease your little one into.
6 Soft cheeses
As well as making an excellent sauce in which your baby can dip pasta, broccoli, and other great foods, soft cheeses make fabulous finger foods in their own right.
There is no reason to worry about introducing a dairy product into your child’s diet unless of course, they have a dairy allergy or intolerance. The reason you are advised not to give cows milk to your baby before one year of age is to prevent them weaning from breastmilk or formula to cow’s milk at a time they still need the nutrition found in formula or breastmilk.
The introduction of cheese does not replace any milk your child is drinking and so is quite safe after around eight months of age.
5 Cooked Fish
There are conflicting opinions on when it is safe to introduce fish to your child’s diet. Shellfish and crustaceans such as lobster or scallops should not be given to a child who may be prone to allergies until after one year and possibly as late as three years. The same advice was given at one stage to all parents for all fish, but there is now advice to say that if your family and your child have no known history of food allergies, it is safe to introduce fish at eight months.
If you do add fish at this stage, it is vital that you make sure all bones are removed. White fish like cod and haddock are the lowest on the allergen scale and so are safest. You can steam or boil the fish, and then it is often soft enough to pull gently apart with your fingers and easy for your baby to eat.
4 Sweet Potato
Gently steamed or boiled slices of sweet potatoes are a delicious first finger food for your baby. The color of the sweet potato makes a difference to the taste with the more pale, white or light-colored sweet potatoes being drier and less flavorful than the more orange colored potatoes.
In the US, the names sweet potato and yam are often used interchangeably, and you might want to make sure you buy what are labeled as yams, which are more orange as opposed to what are labeled as sweet potatoes which tend to be the paler, drier variety.
Peel your sweet potato and boil until soft or bake it in its skin and carve out soft chunks for your baby to enjoy. Make sure, as always, the potato is soft and does not have any firmer spots in the flesh, before giving pieces to your baby.
3 Toast Bread
Unlike bread, which clumps together in the mouth and can be a severe choking hazard, toast is a safe and tasty finger food for your baby. It is preferable to use brown or wholemeal bread and not white as this will ensure your child develops healthier habits from the start.
Toast your bread until it is a nice mid-brown, not too soft so it may be dangerously doughy and not so crisp that it crumbles in the mouth. Trim the crusts off of the toast and cut it into small strips or larger squares depending on how well your baby has been doing with solid food up until this point.
Toast is also a great food to spread with other tastes such as preserved fruits, avocado puree, all manner of soft fruits and vegetables, marmite, veggie mite and other spreads.
One word of warning. Do not spread your baby’s toast with honey. There is a risk of botulism contamination in honey that an immature child’s digestive system is unable to cope with, so you must wait until your baby is at least one-year-old before offering it.
2 Tortilla Strips
In the same way as toast is an excellent vehicle for lots of other tastes, tortillas can be served with a wide variety of toppings and dips.
You can give raw or cooked tortilla, and tortillas with melted cheese, but left to cool first, and is a great food to play with and eat. Cut your tortilla into strips about a thumb width wide and let your baby explore the taste and texture. Most little ones love to wrap these strips around their little hand and then jam their fists into their mouths to suck the strips off.
Another plus point to wraps is that most places sell wraps of some kind, so they are easy to pick up and share with your little one on the go. They also freeze well, just layer the tortillas between sheets of greaseproof paper and freeze. You can then remove one wrap at a time for snacking.
1 Cooked Beans
Not only are beans high in protein, easy to buy, easy to store and easy to prepare, but they are also great fun for your baby to eat as well. With the wide variety of colors and flavors available your little one can be entertained by multi-colored plates of beans to pick up, count, and sort, as well as to eat.
To cook up a multi-colored bean fest it is best to soak the beans overnight, although if you forget you can still cook them, you will just have to cook them for longer. Just cover them with water and bring them to boil, cooking them until they squash between your finger and thumb. Allow the beans to cool thoroughly before giving them to your little one. They can be served as they are but if you choose to use kidney beans you may want to cut the bigger ones in half lengthways.
Like lentils, beans are high in protein and can make your baby quite gassy, so you may want to wait until around the eight-month mark before offering them.