Nothing can be as adorable and priceless as seeing your little newborn for the first time!
By the time your baby is 9 months old, her pincer grasp (the thumb and index finger motion to hold small items) will have developed and she will now want to pick food with her hands. Your baby will take a lot of delight sucking and munching on finger foods. This is said to be a self preparation phase for your child before turning completely independent. Encourage your baby to feed herself with her tiny fingers, this will motivate her to try eating with a spoon later.
You can now indulge your little toddler with some tasty finger foods that are both healthy and nutritious. This in turn creates interest in your baby to practice her eating skills as well.
Healthy Finger Foods For Toddlers:
We have compiled a list of some quick ideas for the home made munchies that can be given to your little one to help enhance the skill while providing the required nourishment.
1. Buttered Toast:
Strips of lightly buttered toast are an excellent choice when it comes to best finger food for toddlers. Your baby can suck and chew these strips with her tingling and teething bare gums. The saliva in her mouth will help soften the toast and some of it will dissolve instantly. The joy of seeing your little one mess her hands and face with food is also special.
[ Read: Food For Toddlers ]
By the end of 9 months it’s time to start putting pieces of fruits in your baby’s plate to train her to pick food pieces with her fingers. The fiber content gets into the diet while making way for some fine eating skills. For adding fruits you can start with diced ripe banana, do remember to cut them into very small pieces to avoid choking. Seeded fruits require close supervision and therefore stay careful while feeding.
Start adding cooked vegetables or tofu chunks in your kid’s diet. In vegetables you can start with sweet potatoes which can be baked / steamed instead of boiling to retain their nutrients. Later you can give them boiled and mashes peas, mixing them with either boiled and mashed potatoes and carrots. Once in a while you can also serve cooked and soft beetroot, cutting it into sticks or cubed.
4. Cheese Based Finger Foods:
Give your munchkin soft cheese, like cottage cheese and start with one teaspoon, and increase the amount according as per his appetite. Later, you can also start with cheddar cheese and remember to grate the cheese or cut it into thin slices if it is too hard. You can also give diced tofu, which are naturally soft.
If you want to serve meat, it should be minced or ground well before giving them to your little one. Make sure to cook meat in a well cooked and hygienic way, as these always carry a bacterial infection propensity. Always buy meat from hygienic place and maintain cleanliness at home as well. It’s best to use a cooking thermometer to check the right temperature for cooked meat for your baby.
6. Crackers And Biscuits:
Crackers, for example, a brand like Graham’s – serve as a great choice in the list of first crackers for your toddler. The original ones from the brand are made with whole wheat flour that includes the germ and bran of the wheat. These crackers can be given after breaking them into small pieces so that it’s easy for your baby to eat. If these are not available then substitute with digestive biscuits, short bread, ginger snaps, oatmeal biscuits or Marie biscuits.
7. Nutritious Kiddy Meals:
Cook a meal of beans and brown rice, mash and serve it. This will give your baby plenty of protein and fiber. Plan up such tiny combos in your own creative way for these are both tasty and soft for your toddler to gulp down. Go experimental with ideas like boiled and mashed rice and lentils, mashed cooked Dal and veggies etc.
[ Read: Toddler Meal Plan ]
A generous part of a baby’s diet should be composed of whole grains. You can prepare a porridge mix for your baby by mixing sprouted, dried and powdered green gram, ragi and jowar, and then mix roasted and powdered oats, poha (a Maharashtrian cuisine) and barley in it. This contains complex carbohydrates, which are filling, nutritious and a great source of energy for growing children. To make this exciting you can add diced small pieces of banana or small pieces of stewed/baked apple.
[ Read: Toddler Nutrition ]
9. Beans and Seeds:
Seeds can be a delicious treat. Although children may catch allergies via seed, its better to give them in moderation, like once or twice a month. Make sure they are roasted and powdered thoroughly and added to the porridge/khichdi (as called in India) before giving it to your toddler. You can also grind them to butter or milk before serving.
Nuts are also one of the delicious food itmes to be included in your baby’s diet. Just like seeds make sure to grind them in a fine way and add them to various meals. A word of caution; introduce peanuts after 12-13 months in order to avoid allergies. Sign of allergy can occur within minutes or even after a number of days after the feed is given. The signs could be stuffy nose, itchy and watery eyes, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or even cramping. So be careful while adding any nut, its always better to consult with your doctor before you start.
Points To Remember When Shifting To Finger Foods:
1. Let the change be a gradual one and therefore when giving chopped vegetables / fruits, initially mash them up thoroughly. Once baby gets used to the consistency, the mashing can be lesser.
2. Offer only one piece at a time in the beginning as most of them like to cram everything into their mouths at once.
3. It is wonderful to see your babies gumming down her food with no teeth. Therefore offer finger foods which can be gummed.
4. Generally your baby will like being offered pieces of food from your plate, so don’t be surprised if he rejects the offered food and picks up the same food from your plate.
5. Choose the foods without added sugar because this develops a craving for sweets in babies.
6. Opt for making your own baby foods as this will give you a control over the ingredients and the preparation method.
7. Don’t be upset if your baby does not eat each much of the finger foods and instead, keep offering because it will help them improve their chewing technique, which in turn helps in their speech development and also, strengthens their jaws.
8. When feeding make your baby sit upright in a high chair, and not in a reclining, swinging or a car seat.
9. Follow the four day rule wherein when you introduce a new food, and continue to feed your baby with the same food for 4 days and notice how she responds to it. If it is safe continue with the same pattern and start with another new food in a sequence.
10. To add color and fun to baby’s mealtime, make the meal look colorful. Create further interest in your baby by using colorful bowls and cutlery.
The rule of thumb would be to feed when your baby is hungry and to stop when she is full. The best advice for baby care is to sensitively follow your baby, and not the experts.
What NOT to offer as Finger Foods?
Now the don’ts in the list of finger foods for toddlers:
1. Pieces of raw vegetables or hard fruits
2. Popcorn, pretzels, corn chips, potato chips and other snacks.
3. Chunks of cheese or meat
4. Marshmallows, whole grapes or cherries
5. Round sweets
6. Berries, especially strawberries, egg whites and tomatoes as the first two cause allergies and some babies are ‘tomato intolerant’.
7. Fish – particularly tuna, salmon, halibut, mackerel and sardines
8. Raisins and other dried fruits
9. Hard candies, jelly beans, gummies and chewing gums
10. Whole hot dogs/sandwiches; instead cut these in very small pieces before serving.
Proper nutrition is very important in early age; otherwise it leads to brain dysfunction and hence affects intellectual capacities. Also faulty eating habits, such as eating wrong foods, being rebellious while eating, watching TV and gulping the food, etc affects the personality, health and growth of your baby.
Try out these easy finger foods for toddlers and let us know what you think!
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