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Healthy Finger Foods for Babies and Toddlers: Introducing Solids

Rebekah is an early childhood educator with sixteen years experience in the field. She enjoys educating others about working with children.

Healthy Finger Foods for Babies and Toddlers: When to Introduce Finger Foods

Healthy Finger Foods for Babies and Toddlers: When to Introduce Finger Foods

When It's Time for Your Baby to Start Eating Finger Food

Babies between the ages of 6-9 months may want to begin trying various finger foods (foods that can be eaten with fingers rather than utensils). Not only do they enjoy the new textures, they very much enjoy bringing the food to their mouths and experiencing this new independence. After months of breast milk or formula and pureed baby foods, they enjoy a new sense of discovering foods.

Finger foods also are excellent for developing their fine motor skills and strengthening hand-to-mouth coordination. It is a wonderful time for the young baby to develop more self-awareness as he realizes this connection of fingers to mouth can deliver satisfaction in the form of nourishment. It’s important that parents and caregivers are educated on the kinds of finger foods that are best for the health and well-being of their child.

Babies Learn by Trying Different Kinds of Food

Something to remember is that a baby develops a taste for a variety of things by trying different kinds of food. It is best to limit salty and sugary foods. A breakfast full of sugar-laden finger foods is not the best way for anyone to begin their day, especially for a young baby with developing taste buds.

How to Start With Finger Food

  1. Never leave a child unattended while feeding, nor overwhelm the child with a loaded plate or container full of food. It’s much easier to introduce the foods one at a time.
  2. Slicing part of a banana into small wedge chunks is a great start.
  3. Allow the child to finger the food—many will squish it between their fingers before bringing it to their mouth.
  4. It’s nice to face your baby so you can help when necessary.
  5. Make the chewing movement with your mouth and make ‘yum’ sounds. It helps the baby know what to do.
  6. Remember, this is a new experience! It will be messy at times. This is fine! Simply place a plastic cloth or paper underneath the high chair for easy clean-up.
  7. It’s best not to force any food. Maybe try it at a different time if a certain food is not eaten.
Babies love fruit. Watermelon is vitamin-rich and an excellent source of water.

Babies love fruit. Watermelon is vitamin-rich and an excellent source of water.

Fruit, Veggie, and Legume Finger Foods to Try

  • Fruits are full of water and vitamins and are excellent, healthy finger foods. Try bite-sized slices and chunks of melon, berries, peaches, pears, apples (skin removed), banana, mango, avocado, kiwi, grapes (skin removed, cut in half).
  • With a baby under one year of age, it’s best to slice blueberries so they’re not a choking hazard.
  • Keep in mind, many fruits are high in pesticide residue. It may be best to buy organic for certain fruits, and always wash thoroughly any fruit before feeding it to your child. They love fruits and they are full of vitamins and easy for the child to eat.
  • Veggies are also high in vitamins and a healthy way to introduce finger foods. Chunks of sweet potatoes are delicious. Cooked (soft) broccoli trees and cauliflower are easy to eat and full of vitamins. Try cooked squash, carrots and other root veggies. Cherry tomatoes (wedged), and sliced tomatoes, asparagus are nutritious alternatives to offer your child.
  • Legumes are nutrient rich and add protein to the diet. Legumes include fully cooked black beans, black-eyed peas, green beans, cooked peas, edamame. Beans are soft and easy to eat. Small chunks of lentil loaf are excellent for this age group.

Meats, Poultry, Fish and Other Protein Finger Foods for Babies

  • Meat and poultry and other proteins include chicken (cut across the grain), chicken nuggets (sliced), deli ham/turkey (if not too high in sodium), scrambled eggs, sliced hardboiled eggs.
  • Try a small chunk of tofu or frittata.
  • Cooked or chunked salmon is also safe and healthy.
  • Older toddlers can eat nut butters on bread cut in squares or fun shapes. Babies under one year should not eat any nut butter or white bread.
Baby-specific cereals are recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Soft O-shaped cereal is perfect.

Baby-specific cereals are recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Soft O-shaped cereal is perfect.

Breads, Cereals, Pasta, and Rice Finger Foods to Start With

Breads and cereals are important sources of fiber and B vitamins which aid in digestion and supply necessary energy for an active baby/toddler.

  • Whole-grain pancakes/waffles can be cut up into bite-sized pieces. Skip the syrup and butter. Your child will not miss it if it's not introduced, nor is it nutritionally necessary.
  • Whole grain toast cut into squares dissolve easily in the mouth. Bits of a croissant/bagel are fine as long as the crust is not too hard.
  • Cheerios, rice cakes, Rice Krispies, small sections of graham crackers, and zwieback are all low in sugar and easy to eat.
  • Cooked noodles, macaroni, tortellini, ravioli, and farfalle are good introductions to pasta. Some babies like the texture, some don't.
  • Sticky rice is messier but can be served as finger food. It's best to limit sauces if too high in sodium—use salt sparingly or not at all.

Dairy Finger Foods

  • Many babies and toddlers like the taste of soft cheese (real cheese, not processed cheese).
  • Shredded cheese, strips of string cheese, and bite-size wedges are all acceptable. Small strips are easy to handle rather than the entire slice.
  • Cheese and fruit make an easy, healthy snack.

A Note About Avoiding Excess Salt

Many toddlers love the taste of macaroni and cheese, but check the sodium content! You don't need to salt your baby's food. Your child will not miss it if it's not introduced, nor is it nutritionally necessary. Babies and toddlers can experience high blood pressure with excess sodium in their diet.

How much salt can a baby have?

  • 6 months to a year: Give less than 1 gram of salt per day.
  • 1 to 3 years old: Give 2 grams of salt per day maximum.

The Transition From Baby Food to Finger Food Is a Gradual Process

Very often in the preschool or daycare setting, a baby or toddler entering the one-year-olds' room must be able to eat finger foods for the ease of meal times with numerous children. The transition from baby food to finger food is a gradual, time-consuming process, so be patient. It’s best to begin weeks before a child is to enter the toddler group.

Parents, teachers, and caregivers need to work together to make the process the best experience for the child. Parents will often get the thumbs-up to proceed and then seek guidance from their pediatrician, who knows the history of the child's health and nutritional requirements. Teachers often make suggestions also or may have a list of suggested healthy foods. If a parent needs ideas and resources, a teacher/caregiver should have information available. The internet can be a great start, as well as the library. Dr. Hill (featured in the video) instructs us that beginning finger foods should be able to be mushed by gumming and to avoid any choking hazards.

Tips for Making Mealtimes Enjoyable

Mealtime should be an enjoyable experience for you and your child.

  • Talk to your baby while he is eating and let him know what he is eating. Smile.
  • Music can be softly playing in the background or family chatter.
  • It's better to enjoy the process rather than get frustrated if the child is not eating the presented food. Be patient.
  • Discuss any concerns with your pediatrician and make sure you and your teacher/caregiver communicate daily about the child's food intake.


Additional Finger Foods and Healthy Food Information

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2011 rebekahELLE

Thank You for Reading and Please Feel Free to Leave a Comment

SDB from Australia on May 25, 2020:

Lot's of great ideas for little ones.

peachy from Home Sweet Home on February 27, 2015:

i gave star fruits, banana and carrots for my kids hen they are young.

moonlake from America on June 08, 2013:

Good ideas. I love the little cups they have for holding finger foods. We will be great-grandparents soon. Our baby days are over but we will be babysitting I hope. Voted up.

Emma from UK on December 30, 2012:

Once we have had a child we take it for granted that this information is common knowledge, yet as a parent of 4, I have had friend's in their 30s with their first toddler ask me what to give them to eat.

Great Hub and am sure it will help a lot of people.

rebekahELLE (author) from Tampa Bay on November 12, 2011:

Lou, your baby will let you know. The key is starting with one food at a time whether spoon fed or with finger foods.

You really don't need to buy specific baby food. You can make your own. This hub deals mostly with finger foods, but using food blenders or baby mixers can be an ideal way to introduce pureed vegetables and fruits. Good luck. I'm sure he's a cutie!

Lou1842 on November 11, 2011:

Very informative for me as my baby is 5 months and I am going to wean him soon. Will be coming back to reread. I'm trying to hold off until he's 6 months to try baby led weaning but not sure if we'll be able to wait until then because he's a big boy!

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on November 02, 2011:

Interesting...not all babies metamorph into healthy eaters all at is gradual...having a variety of foods available and discovering which foods your toddler really enjoys is the key. Toddlers are not unlike adults; they go through stages of likes and dislikes. My eldest grandson loved pumpkin as a toddler, now not so much-he is now 16.

Preparing foods for baby (rather than buying the stuff that is in the baby section for baby) is the way to go too. A concise to the point hub. Hope you are successful in adopting.

rebekahELLE (author) from Tampa Bay on September 06, 2011:

prasetio, thanks! Babies are awesome and deserve to be well nourished and loved. It's always so nice to see your visit on one of my hubs!

Hi Jason, thank you! How exciting that you and your partner may be adopting a baby! Babies are little treasures and are such a joy, and a huge responsibility. I'm glad you found this helpful. White bread is not only hard to digest, but can be a choking hazard. I hope you will keep us informed about the adoption! Best to you and your partner. xo

Jason Menayan from San Francisco on September 06, 2011:

Terrific information. Thank you for capturing just about every question I can imagine on this subject. My partner and I are looking to adopt a baby, and we are completely clueless about child-rearing techniques like this. I know that babies shouldn't eat honey, but I would not have known that nut butters and white bread are verboten.

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on September 04, 2011:

Nice information from you. I love babies and we should to know about this. Valuable information and thumbs up for you. Cheers....


rebekahELLE (author) from Tampa Bay on August 23, 2011:

CMHypno, Oh, that sounds rather yummy. I remember eating a lot of cheerios! Food memories can be so strong, especially with scent. Thanks for stopping by and reading. It's always nice to see you!

RTalloni, thanks for your comment! Especially in the first years, food is so important. Hopefully more parents and caregivers will realize the benefit of providing healthy foods for our youngest children.

RTalloni on August 22, 2011:

Good stuff! Thorough and interesting, but most of all an important topic in today's fast food society.

CMHypno from Other Side of the Sun on August 20, 2011:

I remember being given soft boiled eggs mashed up with bread and butter when I was very small - amazing how food memories can take you back after all these years. Interesting and helpful hub Rebekah.

rebekahELLE (author) from Tampa Bay on August 15, 2011:

Thanks LRC. I'm happy to hear is is helpful! 6 months old are adorable. A new phase of development begins. I hope you can use some of the info here for your little one! Happy feeding!

LRCBlogger on August 15, 2011:

I love these types of 'informative' and 'how to' hubs. My baby is approaching 6 months so this is perfect read for me. Thanks Rebekah, lots of helpful info here!! She is still on the pureed food but moving to finger foods probably in the near future.

rebekahELLE (author) from Tampa Bay on August 14, 2011:

Citrus fruits, which include oranges, tangerines and lemons should not be introduced until after 12 months. They may produce an allergic reaction because of the acidity. Older babies can try these fruits one at a time with a small portion. It may help to combine the fruit with a protein or cracker. If the baby hasn't shown signs of lactose intolerance, small bite size strips of cheese can be introduced. If you have concerns, you can first check with your pediatrician. It's best to only introduce one new food at a time to make sure a possible allergic reaction can be discovered more easily. It's generally acceptable to introduce cheese before cows milk, as the culturing process makes the milk protein easier to digest. Thanks for the important question.

gustaw1981 from Poland on August 14, 2011:

What about alergies? Fruits and cheese are pretty often alergic.