We all want our kids to develop good food habits. The stepping stone or a kid's introduction to the world of food starts with weaning. Every new mommy whose child is mostly breast fed and is ready to wean tries to do it in the best possible way. Weaning kids to solid food is not an easy task. The transition from an exclusive milk diet to solid food for most kids starts at an age of 6 months but usually takes many months or even years to settle down. When I started weaning my child, I found that I had a fussy eater at hand who would shut her lips tight and won't open her mouth. I tried various techniques, recipes etc but soon found that rather than my feeding her and getting into a power struggle, a baby lead weaning technique worked better for her. Thus, I started giving her finger foods and gradually her attitude and liking towards food improved. By the age of 1.5 years, she started recognizing a variety of foods through their smell and color and her preferences with respect to taste also became evident.
So what are finger foods?
Finger food is "anything that can be easily held and eaten with fingers" . This is food that can be given to a child and which the child tries to eat on his or her own under parental guidance and surveillance. In this article, I am going to discuss when to give it, how it helps and what to give and how to give.
The Appropriate Age to Start
All kids are different and the age at which one can introduce finger food can be ranging from 8 to 9 months to 1 year in some. Some kids start teething early and some have a delayed teething so food has to be such which can be easily chewed with gums and can be easily swallowed. When the child shows signs like snatching food from your plate or grabbing the spoon with which you feed them, this means they are ready for it.
How It Helps?
Giving finger food to your kids helps in:
- Developing a habit of independence. It is usually seen that some mothers feed kids till a very later age as they never learn to feed themselves on their own. Finger food teaches them to do that early. It takes time and patience initially from a parent's side as the child will scatter the food, throw it, crumble it in hands etc but in due course they learn and it helps avoid trouble later.
- It helps in developing grasping, holding, motor skills and coordination i.e. the child's hand movements like holding with thumb and forefinger develops and this skill learnt early make them independent and adept in holding other things easily when need arises.
- They develop a connection with food. They start recognizing and enjoying the colour, texture, taste and aroma of food and start developing taste and liking for food.
- A positivity for food develops and may be that fussiness which many kids develop is avoided.
- Children are usually in their teething process and chewing with gums eases the irritation they have during teething.
What to give as finger food?
Usually when we start weaning babies to solid food initially things like daal ka paani, mashed khichdi etc is given. Finger food is one which is bite size I.e. cut into very small pieces, easy to eat and can be chewed by gums and swallowed comfortably. Also the baby can pick the pieces and feed themselves. The good part is that one can give them a variety which is rich not only in carbohydrates and proteins but also fruits and veggies which have vital minerals and vitamins essential for immunity and growth.
Thus, the foods are:
- Boiled vegetables like carrots, peas, potatoes, sweet potatoes which are sauted in oil or ghee and seasoned with salt.
- Small cut fruit pieces of soft fruits like mango, banana, strawberries, kiwis, chikoo, papaya etc. These are not only nutritious but also help relieve constipation.
- One can also give small pieces of cheese, paneer, cooked egg broken into pieces and shredded and cooked chicken etc for non vegetarians.
- 4 Even a paratha like aaloo or paneer specially cooked for the child can be cut into very small pieces and given.
Some people also try cereals slightly softened in milk, sweets like kaju katli cut in small pieces or small pieces of bread on which butter or jam is applied. Even pieces of bread cooked in ghee can be given.
Actually a lot can be experimented in this regard depending on the age, and chewing and swallowing capacity of the child. It helps us introduce the child to different tastes and in due course they also develop their liking.
Precautions & Care
Starting with finger food one should keep certain things in mind.
- The baby should be able to sit properly while having food else it may lead to choking and vomiting.
- The hands of the baby should be clean. Either wash before giving or sanitize them. Even your hands should be clean and keep a towel as the child may throw the food out also.
- Always start by giving 4 to 5 pieces on a unbreakable plates. Wait for the reaction. Help when required by showing how to pick and put in the mouth. Initially, the child may test your patience, throw or scatter the food, not eat, crush the food in hand but by and by they see and learn. A little patience and assistance is required on your part.
- Choose age appropriate food, cut in small bite size pieces, should be soft and easy to chew by gums and swallow. The food should not present a choking hazard.
- Keep a watch on the child for any allergies and avoid such foods. Also observe which items the child loved to eat and which not. Initially try with foods the child loves to eat and later introduce the rest.
I hope this write up helps mothers. Happy parenting.
This article is an entry for BLOG-A-THON.
Also read: Weaning Basics: How And When To Get Started
Explore the entire collection of articles: Baby Foods