Starting finger foods is an exciting time on your baby’s weaning journey. They can discover all sorts of new tastes and textures and will enjoy being able to feed themselves. It’s a messy business but it’s great fun too!
So we’ve put together a list of our top 31 baby led weaning first foods to help you get started with your weaning journey.
When to start giving your child finger foods
You can give your baby finger foods right from the first bite, when they are 6 months old.
Otherwise, you can start with purees and then give finger foods alongside them once your baby has mastered spoon feeding. It’s really up to you. Your baby is ready to try finger foods when:
- He can sit unaided in a high chair
- He can ‘chew’, using his gums to mash food
- He has developed the ‘pincer grip’ so he can pick up objects and guide them to his mouth
Babies shouldn’t be given finger foods before 6 months of age.
Worries about choking
A common concern when parents start giving their baby solid foods to chew is the fear of choking. It’s a real worry and can make you scared when you start giving your baby finger foods.
A study carried out in 2016 found that there is no greater risk of babies choking if they do baby led weaning compared to babies who start with purees.
That said, all babies should be closely supervised when they start weaning and never left alone while eating, even for a minute.
It’s best to start with soft finger foods that are easily mashable by your baby’s gums.
Peel and chop the fruit and veg and cook it until it is soft and mashable. You can even test it to see if it’s soft enough by trying a bit and seeing if you can easily mash it with your tongue on the roof of your mouth.
It can be a good idea to make batons of finger food. These are long enough for your baby to pick up and grasp but thin enough that they don’t get stuck in their windpipe. Or you could cut up food into small pieces for your baby to pick up and chew.
Use the rule of thumb to guide you when you chop food. Everything should be cut smaller than a thumb’s width before it is served to children. Your baby might prefer these to be thin sticks or little chunks. Try both and see.
Foods that are choking hazards
Never serve foods that are round and could get stuck in your baby’s air pipe. So avoid foods like whole grapes, whole cherry tomatoes, whole cherries and whole nuts.
Raw carrot and apple are also a choking risk. So always peel these and cook them well so they are soft and easy to digest.
Foods that can swell in the throat after chewing can also be a choking hazard so take care to cut foods like banana and melon into nice small chunks before giving them to your baby.
Other foods that are best to avoid for small babies and toddlers due to the risk of choking include hot dog sausages, popcorn and marshmallows.
The difference between gagging and choking
Lots of babies gag when they start eating solids. This can be alarming for parents but it is not the same as choking. Gagging can sound worrying but it’s just a way of your baby bringing any bigger lumps back to the front of his mouth to mash them down more.
Gagging is noisy but choking is silent, which is why it is so important to keep a close eye on your baby as they eat.
If they eat a round piece of food that blocks their airway then they can choke. A baby who chokes is unable to cry, cough, make any noise or breathe. If your baby chokes then it’s important to act quickly.
What to do if your baby chokes
There are so many things you can do to prevent choking, like taking care to offer safer foods and prepare them correctly as we have explained above. But if the worst happens and they do choke, it’s good to know what to do.
You could find a local first aid course to help you gain valuable skills. Or you could read up on what to do with this article here from British Red Cross: First aid for a baby who is choking.
Exciting ideas for first finger foods
So now that we’ve covered some safety tips, you can move onto baby’s exciting food adventures! They can try all sorts of different finger foods, to get them used to a variety of tastes and textures.
Often you can just cut off pieces from the food you are serving the rest of the family and offer it as finger foods. For example, if you’re having a roast dinner you could give them carrot batons and little strips of chicken.
The idea is to introduce your child to as many different foods as you can (but not all at once, of course) to widen their palette.
Here are some great ideas for baby led weaning first foods to start with:
Your baby can eat the rainbow with these delicious and colourful veggies. You can start by serving them plain or add herbs, spices and a little olive oil to introduce more delicious flavours.
Boil or steam then chop into batons or small pea-sized chunks. You can also roast them in oil to give your baby a different tastes and texture to try. You can sprinkle roast carrots with chopped parsley or thyme for another taste.
Boil or steam your broccoli and then cut it into small pieces or into skinny florets.
You could peel and cut your sweet potatoes into thin batons and roast in oil. Jazz them up with a pinch of paprika or even cinnamon.
Boil the peas and pop the into a cupcake case as a cute holder for their little meal.
Steam and chop your courgette into small pieces. Or you could cut it into thin batons and saute them in a pan with olive oil or coconut oil. Just make sure you have peeled the courgette first as the skin can be quite acidic and affect little tummies.
Peel and cut your squash into batons and roast the pieces in the oven in a little oil. Or you could pop them in the steamer. You can sprinkle them with thyme, rosemary or cinnamon to add some new flavours.
Steam or boil and chop your beans into pieces. Remember to remove any stringy bit before you give them to your baby. You can drizzle green beans with olive oil if you like.
You can peel the cucumber and then just serve it raw, cut into thin batons or little pieces. Easy peasy.
Parsnip is perfect to cut into thin fingers and then roast them. You can add a pinch of thyme to add some more flavour.
Roast your pumpkin in the oven until nice and soft. Then you can cut out the flesh into thin batons or little pieces. Add a pinch of rosemary, thyme, or nutmeg to give it an added twist if you would like to.
Fruit is a winner as babies have naturally sweet teeth and will often yum them down. Make sure the fruit is peeled and soft and mashable before you give it to your baby.
Here are some fab first fruity finger foods to try:
Cut your blueberries into halves or quarters to minimise the risk of choking.
Cut your apple into slices or little chunks and steam it until soft. Or you could even saute the pieces in a pan with some cinnamon and butter for a yummy treat.
Simply peel and cut your peaches into thin slices or little pieces. If it’s nice and ripe it will be soft enough for baby to mash with their gums.
Another easy peasy one to prepare. Pick a nice, ripe avocado and simple scoop out the flesh and cut it into nice small slices or batons.
Peel and cut a very ripe pear into batons or little pieces to offer raw. Or you could coat slices of pear in a bit of oil and cinnamon and bake in the oven for half an hour.
Peel and cut the pineapple pieces into thin batons or little chunks for a sweet and yummy treat.
Peel and chop a ripe banana into small pieces.
Peel and chop a ripe mango into thin batons or little chunks.
Peel and cut your nectarine into thin slices or little squares.
Peel and cut ripe plums into small chunks for baby to enjoy.
Meat and fish
There are so many yummy ways you can introduce your baby to the different tastes and textures of white meats and fish. Here are some great ideas for first finger foods to give alongside veg and fruit:
Roast, bake or grill chicken and then cut it into thin strips or little pea sized chunks. It’s always a good idea to double check the chicken is cooked through and not pink inside before offering some to baby.
Roast or grill your turkey and cut it into small pieces to offer to baby.
Bake white fish in the oven until it’s soft and flaky. Make extra sure there are no tiny bones hiding anywhere by checking it with a fork before giving to baby.
You could bake your salmon in the oven and cut into pieces. Again just take a look to make sure there are no bones before giving to your baby.
Grains and carbs
Yummy and great for filling up little tummies! Here are some ideas for grains and carbs to add to their meals.
Boil rice and then, when it’s a little cooled, you could roll it in your hands to make mini rice balls. You can add peas to the mix too to make the rice balls more interesting.
A nice (and super speedy) way to serve oatmeal as a finger food is to make banana oatmeal fingers. Mash some ripe banana in a bowl. Add some quick cooking oats, milk (formula, or breast milk) and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Mix well and then pop in the microwave for 2 minutes. Let the oaty mixture rest and then pour it onto a board, flatten it and cut little fingers of it to give to your baby.
Cut off the crusts and then chop your toast into skinny fingers. Babies will love working their way around the pieces. Or could also cut off thin strips of pitta bread.
Whip up a batch of pancakes and then cut into thin fingers. Try our yummy Baby Banana Pancakes, which are dairy free and need just 3 ingredients!
Simply boil until soft and serve pasta. You can add some homemade basil pesto to add further flavour.
Boil your barley until soft, cool and then serve. You could add some chopped dill or parsley for some interesting tastes.
Couscous only needs to sit in boiling water for 5 minutes. When it’s done let it cool and fluff it out with a fork for your baby to dig into. You can add some veggies or a bit of oil or butter to make it a dish all on its own.
We hope our Top 31 Baby led weaning first foods have given you some food-spiration for your weaning journey!
Remember to keep offering baby a wide variety of foods and try to keep up a mix of veg, fruit, meat and grains.
Don’t worry if your little one turns his nose up at some foods. Just offer them again in a few days time.
It can take several tries to like a new food so don’t give up, And enjoy baby’s journey into the wonderful world of food!