Finger food should be introduced as early as six months to get baby used to feeding themselves (baby-led-weaning). Although they may not fully master the pincer grab (holding foods between the forefinger and thumb) until 7 months, it is good to familiarize them with the idea of finger foods early on so it is not alien to them. Remember teeth are not essential during weaning as babies chew lumpier foods using their gums. Every baby is different too, so when introducing finger foods there are some things to bear in mind.
How do I know if my baby is ready for finger foods?
- Just like starting to wean, your baby should be able to sit upright unaided.
- Baby should be starting to develop their pincer grasp, this is the ability to hold objects between their forefinger and thumb.
- Baby should have started to be able to chew, using their gums to mash foods.
The key is to aim to start introducing finger foods at around six months. Though they may not actually grasp the concept until about 7 ½ months, introducing finger foods earlier will get them used to the idea.
How and When to Introduce Finger Foods
In the course of a meal, be sure to offer finger foods before a purée. This will make your baby more likely to accept it rather than play with it as they won’t be too full from already eating their purée.
Some children don’t like being fed, so baby led weaning with finger food is a great way of giving them control of their meals. Take your baby’s lead! If they prefer to feed themselves, let them to do so.
Allow at least one meal to be a finger food each day and offering a dip and a dipper is a great way of doing it. My Baked Chicken Meatballs and Red Pepper Hummus make a great combination your baby will love!
Remember any recipe can be served as a finger food, it's just about how you offer it. All my recipes in my 'Baby and Family Recipe Book: 2nd Edition' have clear footnotes on how to serve them as a finger food.
Remember the most important part of introducing finger foods is to be relaxed and confident. Your baby may gag, but remember that gagging is a reflex to push the food forward which is positive, so don’t be alarmed. To learn more, read our blog on Choking or Gagging.
- All finger foods offered should be "mash-able" between your baby’s gums. This will mean cooking the food slightly longer then you would if you were cooking it for yourself to soften it for your little one.
- When offering any type of food, including finger foods, make sure you are with your baby at all times. A baby should never be left alone while eating or having food in reach.
- Never introduce finger food before six months.
- Finger food should be age appropriate, so introduce larger foods first before moving on to smaller pieces.
- The process will be messy, but enjoy it! When you are more relaxed, your baby will be happier too, making them more likely to try explore more.
Starting off: From 6 months
- Your baby may not have developed their pincer grab just yet.
- They will use their whole hand to pick things up by clasping the item in their palms.
- It is best to place the food into their hand, but let your baby bring it to their own mouth.
- Be sure to cook your baby’s portion a little more than you would your own to ensure it is soft enough for them to enjoy.
Size: Finger size.
Best Foods: Steamed vegetable fingers, fruits, rice cakes or toast slices.
Roasted Sweet Potato Fingers, roasted or steamed carrots or broccoli florets, apple, banana, pear.
Best Dips: Sauces with smoother textures such as our Tomato Sauce, stored in our 7-8 months weaning pots.
Moving on: 6-9 months
- Your baby will be able to move onto smaller size finger foods when they are better able to pick up food.
- Offer smaller foods or simply cut up any foods you offer.
- It may be difficult to start, especially with naturally smaller foods (peas etc) but soon your baby will love picking them up!
Size: Bite size.
Best Foods: Smaller foods and gluten or dairy containing foods.
Frozen Yoghurt Covered Blueberries, sliced cooked chicken, chopped steamed carrots or other veg.
Best Dips: Sauces or dips with increased textures like my Red Pepper Hummus.
Moving on: 9-12 months
- Your baby will be really getting the hang of finger foods now.
- They should be well able to pick up most foods offered, and able to manage a wider variety of textures.
Size: Bite size, with increased texture.
Best Foods: Raw vegetable pieces for added texture, and snacks with increased texture.
Try raw carrot sticks, firm cheese pieces, Vegetable Muffins, Banana and Blueberry Muffins or even Cinnamon French Toast.
Best Dips: Anything goes!
Portion Size and Storage of finger food:
- Our Toddler Pots from the Baby Led Weaning Set are the perfect size for storing smaller finger foods for your baby.
- Prepare in batches and freeze in the same way as you would a purée to ensure that you always have a variety of finger foods on hand to offer your baby.
- The Child Portion Pot is ideal for larger pieces or chunkier meals, such as our Pasta Sauce with Hidden Veg or Mummy Cooks Meatballs.
- When preparing dip and dipper meals, the 7-8 Month Weaning Pots are perfect for serving and storing homemade dips!
- Introducing finger foods may be a messy process, but allow yourself and your weaning baby the time to enjoy it!
Foods to avoid
Nuts – they can easily be lodged in a small child’s windpipe
Whole grapes or cherry tomatoes – always cut into quarters
Popcorn – choking hazard
Seeds – choking hazard
Raisins – wait until your baby has teeth and is chewing well before introducing