Providing finger foods is a great way to get your child used to feeding themselves. Most babies start experimenting with finger foods at seven to nine months, but it is not unusual for some babies to start picking up their food earlier than this. By the time they start taking finger foods, your baby should have good hand control, and be able to chew well enough to handle foods you might give them.
Playing with finger foods has a number of advantages for your baby. It gets them to start feeding themselves which is a key skill. Moving the food from their plate to their mouth also helps with hand dexterity and hand-eye coordination. The types of food provided at this stage are also tough enough to further exercise their chewing skills and strengthen their jaws and all other muscles involved in pulverising the tough cuts.
Types of food and how to prepare it
You should tailor all of the food that you prepare to your baby’s needs. Cut large objects into reasonably sized chunks, slices or wedges - large enough for them to pick up and handle easily. Peel off the skin and remove any pips, bones or other choking hazards. If you think something is too hard for your baby, boil or stew it to soften it. Examples of good finger foods for babies include:
  • buttered bread or toast cut into fingers
  • peeled slices of apple, melon, apricot, peach, peeled halved grapes, ripe banana or soft pear
  • steamed veg such as carrot, potato or parsnip sticks or small florets of cauliflower or broccoli (raw veg would be too hard to start off with)
  • soft dried apple or apricot
  • cooked pasta
  • rice cakes
  • dry cereals
  • mini sandwiches
  • hard-boiled eggs cut in small pieces
  • sticks of mild cheese
  • fish finger pieces
  • small pieces of chicken or turkey
  • miniature meatballs of lamb, beef, chicken or turkey
Try to get your baby used to a variety of different tastes and textures from an early age. Soon they will start to develop their own tastes and preferences.
Cautions and advice
You should always watch your baby when they are eating, in case they choke or attempt to put a portion that they have dropped on the floor into their mouth. If you are unsure of something, it is best not to give it to your child, and consult with someone first. It is also advisable to be alert to any reactions your baby might have; anything that might indicate an allergy.
It is a good idea to invest in some bowls that attach to their tray by suction cups at this stage. This will help to prevent your baby from pushing the bowl off the tray in frustration as he is trying to pick up food. A colourful bowl will attract baby’s attention and help to make the food more appealing, encouraging your baby to go for it. You may also want to cut the food into interesting shapes or use a variety of coloured foods to keep them engaged. As your baby gets older, you can introduce coarser foods to encourage chewing.