It’s probably quite obvious by now that we didn’t do baby led weaning as we opted to introduce vegetable puree’s first and work our way up from that. It worked well for us, I didn’t have a grub who insisted on feeding himself and getting involved. In fact, at almost 1 he was still quite lazy and was happy to play with some food while we fed him some mouthfuls at home. Whilst at day care, he totally feeds himself and gets right in there with both hands!
So, there came a time where I thought about when and how to introduce finger food. We’d also opted to go grain-free until 10 months, so it wasn’t as easy as introducing soft pieces of bread. When he got to about 8 or 9 months, I felt the pressure to start giving him ‘finger food’ as everyone else we knew around our age was doing so. But this was MESSY, and most of the time, I just felt like it was easier to feed him myself especially as I knew he would eat a lot more and, in my mind, more variety this way. On one hand, I knew of people that did finger food from 5.5 months, and on the other hand I’ve got my mum saying she never did that as she couldn’t be bothered with the mess! Sometimes, I was definitely in her camp haha. And, you don’t exactly see 2-year old’s walking around not knowing how to feed themselves, right?! So, what did I do? Well, on those days when I had the patience and time, I would give him some food to play with, whilst still feeding him the majority of his meals. And on other days it was mashes and lumpy food that I just fed him while he played with spoons.
One thing grub loved from the start was orange kumara. It formed the base of a lot of our meals (see here for some ideas) and it also makes the perfect first finger food. It’s better than the purple kumara as it’s softer, sweeter and doesn’t break as easily (purple kumara is more dry). It’s also great for travelling with as it can be eaten warm or cold. Simply peel a few kumara, cut in to ‘chips’ and bake in the oven at 180c until soft. So, this is where I started.
He also loved peeled slices of cucumber. In the beginning, he would just gum it, break some off and then spit it out as he didn’t get any teeth until much later. I just had to make sure he didn’t swallow any! Grated cheese was a hit too, and then we graduated to slices of it after a wee while. I have a great grain-free banana and carrot muffin recipe (I can share this with you guys soon) that he really enjoyed and I would just break some pieces off for him while feeding him the rest.
I must say that whilst introducing all this stuff, he really only played with it for aaages. He never really fed himself much until he was almost one. So, if your one is the same, don’t worry about it. They’re not gona stay like that forever. They’ll get there! Now at 17 months he won’t let us feed him at all.
Then when he was about 11 months or so, just before he started day care (where they are encouraged to feed themselves at every meal; awesome), he started to get the hang of picking things up and putting them in his mouth. It was at about this time that I gave him peanut butter on toast for breakfast and left him to it. Or I gave him a meatball or two for morning tea (another great finger food idea that also travels well as can be eaten cold, see here for our yummy recipe). Another easy one was rice cakes with hummus or peanut butter and thin slices of soft pear and kiwifruit were great too. Bliss balls are also a favourite! Especially when out and about. Still though, most of the time I’d have to give him some to try and then he would take over. He always needed to take that first little bite and then he would understand that it was yummy and he wanted to eat it. But I often had to give him that first go – weird!
So what are my tips?
- Don’t feel the pressure to introduce finger foods too early or like your baby is ‘behind’ when it comes to eating by themselves (if you’ve chosen to not start with finger food from the beginning). They’re all different, and hey. On the bright side, you can ensure they’re getting a wide variety of foods if you’re still shovelling it in!
- When you’re ready, start with something relatively simple and something you don’t mind being wasted. So much ends up on the floor or not getting eaten at all.
- Take your baby’s cues; if they insist on using the spoon themselves, let them. If they don’t mind playing with a green bean while you feed them quiche, then do it!
- Start introducing finger food at home. It’s much easier to clean up all that mess and there’s less distraction for them. They can concentrate on exploring the wonderful world of food.
I hope this has helped and given you some ideas on what some good finger food ideas might be. Watties also do a pretty good infographic (scroll down to stage 4).