There is no exact right time to start finger foods, but your infant should have the motor skills to be able to handle foods with their fingers. This usually happens around 8 to 12 months of age.
Before then, introducing finger foods can be a frustrating experience for both the child and the parents.
Some of the skills that they should have before moving to finger foods include the ability to:
- Sit by themselves
- Grasp and release food
- Chew food (even without teeth)
Once they have these skills, it might be time to start adding finger foods to the menu.
Adding finger foods allows children to start feeding themselves, improve their fine motor skills, and have control over what they eat and how much. It is another opportunity for them to gain a little independence while developing healthy eating habits.
Good finger foods are those that are finely chopped and soft, along with those that dissolve easily. You want to serve foods that are easy to pick up and to mash in between the gums.
Taste it before giving it to your baby and ask yourself, is it soft and mashable? Does it melt or dissolve easily? Are the pieces small enough? Once you have answered these questions, it is time to start serving.
Some examples of good finger foods for babies include:
- Soft fruits
- Soft cheeses
- Well-cooked meats -- diced or shredded (chicken, turkey, ground beef, or fish)
- Cooked pasta
- Baby crackers
- Dry cereal (such as Cheerios®, Chex®, Crispix®, and Kashi's Mighty Bites™).
The key with any of these is to make sure that they are finely chopped in order to prevent any choking. Also, you can decrease texture and taste issues in the beginning by starting with foods that they already like in pureed or strained form.