Food is fun, especially for young children, and it’s completely normal for them to want to play with their food. Finger foods are perfect for this and provide plenty of benefits beyond the fun. Finger foods are a great way to support your little one’s hand eye coordination, development of their pincer grip, chewing skills, increase the variety of tastes and textures they will eat and also encourage self-feeding. All of this can help reduce the likelihood of food faddy-ness.
What are the best finger foods?
The best way to get lots of goodness into your little one’s diet is to provide foods from each of the main food groups.
Fruits and vegetables:
- Cooked root vegetables like sweet potato wedges, roasted carrot or parsnip
- Well-cooked vegetable sticks like asparagus, green beans, sweet pepper, tenderstem broccoli, steamed baby corn
- Soft fruit cubes without skins: mango, peach, melon, banana, nectarine, kiwi, avocado, strawberries, seedless grapes (cut into 2 lengthways)
- Well-cooked pasta shapes
- Bread sticks, plain rice cakes or oat cakes dunked in hummus / cream cheese / nut butter
- Baby new potatoes
- Arancini balls (risotto and cheese fried into balls)
- Unsweetened ‘O’ shaped cereal (ones fortified with iron are particularly helpful)
Protein cources including dairy (often combined with starchy carbohydrates):
- Eggy bread
- Toasted cheese on bread
- Thin strips of tender meat or tofu
- Hard-boiled egg or strips of omelette
- Strips of cheese
- Fishcakes using salmon and white fish, minced with mashed potato
How often should I give my little one finger foods?
After the first few days of weaning, the goal is to quickly build to 3 small meals a day in addition to small snacks between meals too. This can be a mix of blended and finger foods to help with meeting your little one’s iron and protein needs. Infants and toddlers have small stomachs and yet high energy and nutrient needs, meaning they need to eat little and often to support their growth and development. Aim for around their fist size of food every 2-3 hours throughout the day. For more information on portion sizes, visit the infantandtoddlerforum.org
Self-feeding and finger foods can be messy, so it’s a good idea to protect the floor and make sure you cover special clothing. Try not to interfere with constant wiping of faces and hands. The best way to encourage a love of food and healthy eating is to let them explore and go at their own pace. Embrace the mess and go with the flow!
To find out more about Little Dish’s fresh finger foods for toddlers click here.