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From about 7 – 9 months is a good time to allow finger feeding. At that age most babies have developed fine motor skills – the ability to make small, precise movements – and can pick up small pieces of food and feed themselves. By encouraging finger feeding, you help your child develop independent, healthy eating habits.
Many parents are afraid that this stage of finger feeding will lead to choking. By allowing your child to finger feed you teach your child how to cope with food in her mouth. By keeping your child away from a pool will not make them water safe, rather teaching them to swim will make them safe around water and this is similar with finger foods. Just as you would be there teaching them to swim so you are there teaching and watching them eat.
5 appropriate finger foods
Before presenting your child with a finger food, try a bite first and ask yourself:
- Does it melt in the mouth? Some dry cereals and crackers that are light and flaky will melt in the mouth.
- Is it cooked enough so that it mushes easily? Well-cooked veggies and fruits will mush easily, as will canned fruit and vegetables (choose ones without added sugar or salt).
- Is it naturally soft? Cottage cheese, shredded cheese, and small pieces of tofu are good examples.
- Can it be gummed? Pieces of ripe banana and well-cooked pasta can be gummed.
- Is it small enough? Food should be cut into small pieces. The sizes will vary depending on the food’s texture. A piece of chicken, for instance, needs to be smaller than a piece of watermelon, which even a pair of baby gums will quickly smash.
5 Finger Foods to Avoid
- Choking Hazards. Parents and caregivers can help prevent choking by supervising the baby while he or she is eating. Foods that are choking hazards include:
- Pieces of raw vegetables or hard fruits eg raisins, whole grapes, or cherry tomatoes (instead, serve grapes and cherry tomatoes peeled and cut in quarters)
- Vienna or other sausages
- Peanuts and other nuts
- Pieces of hard cheese
- Hard Sweets – your child needs to eat nutrient-rich foods instead of consuming empty calories found in desserts and high-fat snacks, such as potato chips.