Finger foods – when should they be introduced? A common question that so many parents ask. I see many families in my clinic who have fussy eaters, and one of the contributing factors is often the delayed introduction of lumpier textures and finger foods, as fear of choking often prevents well-meaning mums and dads from introducing their babies to these types of foods.
Offering your child finger foods early in the solids journey brings with it many benefits – including improved oral motor development, which impacts the ability to eat and chew. Other benefits include improved early speech development and improved fine motor skill development given the increased handling of the food.
Providing finger foods helps to encourage exploration through seeing, touching, tasting and smelling of food, and needless to say little ones thrive off the sense of independence and control that this allows. Some babies refuse spoon-feeding, and finger foods are often a successful solution.
In keeping with the recommendations, I do advise parents to serve finger foods alongside purees in the early stages, especially purees which contain iron, as finger foods are more likely to be explored (squashed and squished) than eaten. Patience, persistence and tolerance of mess is key.
When it comes to making the most nutritious finger food choices for the youngest members of one’s family, it’s important to introduce them to a variety of nutritious wholefoods, rather than refined or processed baby snacks such as sweetened crackers or teething rusks. These early food choices can help shape taste-bud preferences and train little appetites to enjoy the delicious tastes of natural, unprocessed foods.
Ten delicious and nutritious finger foods for babies:
1. Berries – Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries are rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals and are an excellent nutrient boost for babies as they help to oxygenate the blood and boost the immune system. However, they can present a choking hazard if offered whole. Instead, add to smoothies and freeze into ice trays or popsicle moulds. Not only will they keep your baby entertained, they are also really soothing for sore gums.