Feeding babies and toddlers - finger foods
foods; finger; lumps; choking;
As babies start to have new foods, from the age of 6 months, they quite quickly want to start holding pieces of food themselves and they begin to learn how to get the piece of food to their mouth and how to chew on it.
Be prepared for mess and for them to take quite a long time playing with and chewing on the piece of food. The more they practice the better they will get. If you get frustrated with them they may become stressed and it will be harder for them to learn how to feed themselves. For safety reasons when they are learning to eat, babies and toddlers need to be sitting still in a baby chair or on your lap.
The foods need to be firm enough to hold, but babies are at risk from choking if they are given hard pieces of food (see 'Preventing choking' below).
Bread and other cereals
- Strips of bread or toast (spreads such as cream cheese or peanut butter will make them softer and a little easier to manage) There is no need to delay or avoid potentially allergenic foods (such as egg, peanuts, wheat, cow’s milk, soy and fish) to prevent food allergies or eczema.
- Tiny sandwiches with avocado, vegemite or ricotta cheese
- Cooked pasta shapes eg spiral shapes provide easy grip for little hands
- Savoury biscuits with spreads, eg rice crackers.
Fruit and vegetables
Do not let them chew on hard pieces of fruit or vegetables such as pieces of raw apple or carrots - they might bite off a chunk of the apple or carrot and this could cause them to choke.
- Large sticks of rockmelon or watermelon with seeds removed
- Banana rings or chunks
- Orange, mandarin segments - remove peel and seeds
- Canned fruit eg diced mixed fruit, peach slices
- Grated or soft stewed apple, pear
- Grapes cut into quarters with skins and seeds removed
- Stone fruit eg plums, nectarines. Remove tough skin and stone.
- Soft cooked carrot, broccoli, cauliflower pieces
- Soft cooked vegetable cubes or pieces eg pumpkin, potato, zucchini
Meats and protein foods
- Strips of lean beef, lamb and chicken
- Pieces of soft cooked meats eg from casseroles
- Canned fish eg. tuna, salmon (mix with mashed potato)
- Cubes of tofu (bean curd)
- Meat or fish patties - cooked meat or fish can be finely chopped and mixed with mashed potato then shaped into balls or patties
- Boiled or scrambled egg
- Sticks of soft cheese or grated cheese
- Baked beans or other cooked beans.
Choking is a risk for babies and young children because they:
- put small objects into their mouths
- do not have the back teeth needed to chew and grind lumps of food fully and these teeth may not be developed until around four years of age
- are still learning to eat, chew and swallow
- may run, play, laugh or cry while there is something in their mouth.
How can I make eating safer for my child?
At eating times:
- always stay with your baby or toddler and supervise them while eating
- make sure that they sit quietly while eating. If your baby or toddler is playing, laughing, or crying wait until they settle before offering food
- never force them to eat, as this may cause them to choke.
Some foods should not be offered to babies or toddlers because they can be unsafe. Don’t give the following foods to babies and toddlers:
- food that can break off into hard pieces. For example, avoid raw carrot, celery sticks, apple pieces and whole grapes. These foods should be cut up, grated, cooked or mashed.
- sausages, frankfurts and other meats unless they are cut into small pieces. Tough skins on frankfurts and other sausages should be removed. Check fish for bones and remove any.
- popcorn, nuts, hard lollies, corn chips or other similar foods.
To find out more including how to manage choking have a look at this topic Choking on food and other objects - children
Topics on this site:
Women's and Children's Hospital (South Australia) Nutrition Department
- Foods for babies and toddlers
- Tucker for toddlers
The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Parent Helpline on 1300 364 100 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).
This topic may use 'he' and 'she' in turn - please change to suit your child's sex.