Photo: Erik Putz
Parents often instinctively shred food into teeny-tiny pieces when their babies are first trying self-feeding at six months—probably because they’re afraid of choking. But when infants start solids, they typically only have a palmar grasp—the reflexive closing of their hand around an object—and haven’t developed their pincer grip yet. This means smaller pieces can be way too frustrating for them to pick up. They actually need food prepared in larger chunks. When starting to prepare finger foods for baby, first serve things that are about the size and shape of an apple slice or potato wedge; try to make pieces about two fingers wide (about one inch wide and three inches long).
To start, the consistency should be soft and easily mashable between their tongue and the roof of their mouth. (Babies don’t need teeth for this!) By the time your infant develops their pincer grip—around eight to 10 months—more shredded pieces, smaller items and ground textures will work well. Here are 20 finger foods for baby in varying shapes and textures:
Leave enough of a stem on your broccoli pieces to act as a handle.
Broccoli may cause gas, so monitor your baby's reaction to eating it. Also, if you're breastfeeding, cruciferous veggies are linked to colic, so be on the lookout for that. If your munchkin is coping fine, you've got the green light.Photo: Erik Putz
Root vegetables like sweet potatoes are suitable for six-month-olds to eat steamed. Sweet potatoes contain fat-soluble vitamin E, an antioxidant and micronutrient that assists with circulation. Roasting sweet potato is a tasty step up.
Don't overcrowd your sweet potato wedges on the pan or they'll end up soggy and too floppy to grasp.Photo: Erik Putz
Salmon is an easy fish to flake into pieces, perfect for little fingers.
This hero fish provides unsaturated fats, which are so important for brain, nerve, and eye development. Salmon also offers calcium, which is famously good for bone and tooth development; less well-known is its benefits for blood clotting. Wild Alaskan salmon is a safer option containing fewer contaminants.Photo: Erik Putz
Orange tropical fruits like mangoes are delicious and nutritious in moderate amounts. They contain potassium, carotenoids, flavonoids, limonoids, terpenes, and vitamin C, which support the eyes, heart, and immune system.
Mangoes are suitable from the age of seven months. Make sure the slices are ripe enough for gumming, but not so ripe that they're hard to hold.Photo: Erik Putz
Roasted peppers are sweet and loaded with Vitamin C, an antioxidant that helps fight infections, among other functions. This is especially important if your child attends daycare while you work—a group of kids amplifies the risk of sniffly noses and similar symptoms. Your baby can eat bell peppers from seven months onward.Photo: Erik Putz
It may take a few months before baby's pincer grip kicks in and they're able to pick up single peas.
Green peas are a source of protein and carbohydrates. The latter is your baby's leading source of fuel. Complex carbs stabilize mood and prevent over-tiredness. Without carbs and protein, baby's growth may be stunted. Infancy is a crucial period where children grow faster than at any other phase of life, so foods like peas have a big part to play.Photo: Erik Putz
Cucumbers are 96% water, an essential nutrient involved in everything your system does. It transports other nutrients into cells and moves waste products out of them, and it aids digestion and helps regulate your baby's body temperature.
Your little one can eat cucumbers from seven months upward. Aim for chunks similar in size to a potato wedge.Photo: Erik Putz
There are plenty of healthy pancake recipes to try; you can even use baby cereal. (Try making a batch and freezing the leftovers.) Make a vegetable puree as a dip, or fill a crepe with steamed cinnamon apples and a dash of maple syrup for a healthy dessert.Photo: Erik Putz
Cheese is a good source of calcium, but serve it in moderation. Processed cheeses (like cheese strings or cheese singles) contain a lot of sodium and additives. Moldy soft cheeses like Camembert, Brie, and Stilton should be avoided in year one—babies' digestive systems are too immature to handle them.
Fun fact: goat's cheese is easier to digest than cheese from cow's milk.Photo: Erik Putz
Strawberries are notorious and the first fruits people think of when they hear the term "dirty dozen," which refers to the 12 types of fresh produce with the most significant pesticide exposure.
This doesn't mean you must exclude these delicious and antioxidant-rich red berries from your baby's diet; just be sure to wash them well. Whole strawberries or large chunks are a choking hazard, so slice them into small pieces.Photo: Erik Putz
Remember how salmon is an excellent source of unsaturated fats? Well, avocado is the plant-based mom's alternative. Healthy fats offer omega-3 fatty acids, and deficiency has some links to conditions such as ADHD and dyslexia. So, go ahead and feed baba that expensive avo. Soft avocado can also benefit from added grip in the form of baby cereal or chia seeds.Photo: Erik Putz
Brown rice is an important source of unrefined complex carbs. It also contains selenium, which is an impressive disease fighter and can help prevent cancer. Try forming steamed rice into little balls to make it a slightly less messy finger food. (Serve white rice in moderation; brown rice is better.)Photo: Erik Putz
Packaged supermarket puffs are great for on-the-go snacking. (Check the label for the age recommendations.) Puff snacks dissolve quickly in the mouth, so they're a safe snack for new eaters. It's always a good idea to keep a drink on hand for sipping if necessary.Photo: Erik Putz
Read more:Is baby-led feeding different from baby-led weaning?3 things that aren't actually signs your baby is ready for solids