Finger Foods for Little Fingers

When infants are transitioning to solid foods, it is important to remember that this transition process is a learning experience for the baby with finger foodchild. Feeding involves many systems in the body, including the brain, sensory processing system, muscles of the mouth, tongue and throat. Feeding also involves the entire digestive system. The transition to solid foods follows a continuum of developmental stages that coordinate with the infant’s ability to handle new types of foods, textures and methods of feeding.

When children reach the age of around 8-10 months, most of them develop a fine motor skill known as the “pincer grasp”. This is when the child is able to pick up small objects using the pointer finger and thumb. In addition, according to speech-language pathologists, when children reach the age of around 9 months, infants develop the oral reflex to bite down on more advanced textures of foods in the mouth. In other words, if they are given a food other than a smooth pureed texture, they will instinctively bite down and mash it with their gums at this age.

Given the above developmental skills, it is appropriate to introduce finger foods to your infant once they are around 8 or 9 months of age. They will be able to practice their pincer grasp as well as their chewing reflexes. It also teaches them to self-feed.

Here are some ideas for finger foods for little fingers:

  • Ripe banana slices, cut into quarters
  • Soft cut-up fruits (no skin or seeds), such as ripe pears, ripe peaches, kiwi, soft melon, blueberries (may even cut in half), plums, etc.
  • Soft cooked vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, cauliflower, cooked carrots, squash, peas and beets.
  • Avocado pieces
  • Toast bits
  • Crackers that can easily dissolve in the mouth with minimal chewing
  • Cheerios or puffed rice cereal
  • Cooked pasta bits
  • Cooked and mashed beans
  • Very soft cooked meat. Cook the meat in a Crockpot or slow cooker for 8+ hours with plenty of liquid until the meat is falling apart. Give very small pieces of meat to your child, one at a time, and make sure they are swallowing the pieces by offering water sips.

Remember to always watch your infant carefully when they are eating, especially as they try more advanced textures. They are at high risk for choking when they are just learning to handle these new foods, so it is important to keep these things in mind:

  • Offer very small bites of food, such as the size of a Cheerio or a quarter of a banana slice.
  • Offer very small quantities of food. At this young age, children are not always aware of how to regulate the amount of food in their mouth. They might enjoy something so much that they stuff in more than they can handle, which is a choking hazard. Give them a little at a time on their tray.
  • Offer soft or textures that can easily dissolve. Avoid sticky or very hard textures.
  • Offer sips of water to help with the swallowing process.

For more information on feeding infants or children, make an appointment with one of our registered dietitians at NSPT.

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