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Babies should be introduced to finger foods aged between 6 and 9 months - eating with fingers helps improve hand-eye coordination as well as encouraging biting and chewing.
Here are some ideas for finger foods:-
- Dried fruits such as raisins, apricots, apple etc.
- Sticks of fresh vegetables: carrots, peppers, cucumber, celery
- Chopped fruit: apple, pears, banana, grapes (sliced in half)
- Dry breakfast cereal
- Toast 'soldiers'
- Lumps of cheese
- Assorted cooked but cold pasta shapes
- Chopped cold meats such as pepperoni, salami and ham
- Chicken and fish goujons
When is the right time to introduce finger foods?
Babies develop at different rates - and quite a few skills have to be acquired in order to feed oneself! Babies need to be able to grip food between their thumb and finger; they must be able to chew or at least suck on solid foods; they must be able to lift food accurately into their mouths. It's wasy for us grown-ups to underestimate just how complex an operation feeding is, but giving babies finger food will help them to improve the required skills.
Without any encouragement, babies will begin to pick up food and try feeding themselves at around 8 months, some may start sooner and you can certainly try to encourage them sooner. Even without teeth babies are able to chew with their gums, but more often than not they'll just begin by sucking on food which starts breaking it down pretty quickly!
Start with foods that 'melt' in the mouth more easily or are very soft, and work up to more textured foods later.