Starting with finger food
By about eight months, most babies are keen to start feeding themselves. Finger foods can help little ones achieve some mealtime independence, and also develop their chewing technique. This in turn helps with speech development and strengthens jaw muscles.
Introducing finger food
To reduce the risk of choking, try offering foods that are quite soft, such as ripe fruit, like banana and peach. Steamed vegetables, for example carrot and sweet potato sticks, are also perfect for this.
Other foods that are suitable for offering as finger food include dry breakfast cereals, cooked pasta shapes, slices of chicken, miniature meatballs and sticks of cheese. Fingers of toast, rice cakes and miniature sandwiches are great too.
Do stay with your little one when giving finger foods because of the risk of choking. Also make sure your baby is sitting up through the process as this makes it easier for her to swallow.
After the first birthday
By the time your baby is one, she should be eating more or less the same food as the rest of your family.
There are lots of options that are fun for the whole family to eat and can still be eaten with the fingers, particularly as a snack or to accompany a sandwich.
For example, broccoli ‘trees’ and sticks of carrot, cucumber and pepper, baby sweetcorn and cherry tomatoes are popular with toddlers. And they work for fussy eaters too – children who refuse vegetables will often eat raw vegetable sticks when served as a snack or at lunch with a tasty dip, like humus or salsa.
Another option is to make your own healthier chips or crisps. Simply bake triangles of wholemeal pitta bread at 200°C for five to seven minutes until golden and crisp.