Baby food ~ first finger foods

Whether you’re a baby-led weaning wannabe or a spoon-feeding fan, having a few baby-friendly finger foods at your finger-tips is essential.

Before having children I loved the idea of baby-led weaning. Let the infant select the foods they want to try and discover how to eat them on their own terms, the theory being that they’re much less likely to turn into over-eating adults if their ‘full buttons’ aren’t overridden by distracted parents shovelling ‘just one more’ spoonful in to tidy up the bowl. I was all for it until I actually had my daughter in front of me and I realised how uncoordinated a six-month-old is. You might as well take a whole bowlful of steamed vegetable sticks, smear one in her hair and throw the rest straight into the compost. I much preferred the certainty that she was getting the balance of nutrients she needed because I’d spooned them in myself. Finger foods came into their own when she was a bit older and we wanted to extend her ‘happy time’ at the table when we were out for lunch.

Baby no. 2 has also been primarily puree-fed, though he always has an extra course or two of finger foods to nibble on afterwards, 1) because of his insatiable appetite, and 2) to keeping him distracted while I attend to the rather diva-ish dinner needs of the pre-schooler. Here are a few tricks I’ve picked up to make things easier:

  • To make slippery cucumber easier to hold, slice it on the diagonal and stick their thumb through the watery seedy bit.
  • Use purple sprouting broccoli instead of normal broccoli, as each floret comes with a useful handle.
  • Bananas can be divided lengthways into three sections: Peel the banana and cut it in half, then poke your finger into the centre of one of the cut sides and it will split down into three.
  • My pre-schooler has reached the age where breadcrusts are suddenly poisonous. Luckily, a nice bit of sourdough crust is the best bit for the 9-month-old to chomp on. Otherwise he tends to just keep on packing in the fluffy middle bit until his mouth is completely full and it’s welded to his palate.
  • Apparently, children can’t digest raisin skins until they’re 2*, so I prefer snipping prunes into raisin-sized pieces with a pair of scissors for a better skin-to-flesh ratio.
  • Raspberries and quartered blueberries are great for helping babies to develop their finger pincer movement and seem to be easier to squash in their mouths, pre-teeth, than bits of grape or strawberry.

* my daughter used to have nappies full of whole raisins, as I don’t think she bothered chewing half the time. Her dad used to joke that we could give them a good rinse and she could just reuse the same packet over and over…

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