How to safely serve finger foods to babies

Finger foods are a fun and yummy way to introduce your baby to self-feeding, to encourage coordination, and explore new foods and sensations, whilst developing the skills to bite, chew, and swallow (which are also important in speech development).

Many parents are understandably nervous about their baby choking as they learn to master these new skills. To help ease your concerns, here are our top tips to safely serve finger foods to babies.

How to safely serve finger foods to babies

The general principles around preparing food for your baby from 6 months are:

  • Soft: you should be able to squash food easily between your thumb and forefinger. Some foods are already soft (such as avocado and banana) while other hard fruits and vegetables will require steaming, boiling, or roasting.
  • Easy to pick up: Sticks/strips/fingers, cut to roughly the size of two adult fingers, are easier for babies to hold in their little hands. Anything smaller may only frustrate them.
  • Free from: pips, stones, and hard skins.
  • Avoiding: anything round, firm, or slippery. Food should always be irregular-shaped to reduce choking risk.

The general principles around preparing food for your baby from 9 months are:

  • Soft: you should be able to squash food easily between your thumb and forefinger. Some foods are already soft (such as avocado and banana) while other hard fruits and vegetables will require steaming, boiling, or roasting.
  • Easy to pick up: Once a baby’s pincer grasp starts to develop (which is when they can pick up small pieces of food between their thumb and forefinger), you can chop up foods into smaller pieces.
  • Free from: pips, stones, and hard skins.
  • Avoiding: anything round, firm, or slippery. Food should always be irregular-shaped to reduce choking risk.

Most common choking hazards and how to prepare them

Here is a list of the more common choking hazards, how to serve them safely as finger foods, plus the foods to avoid entirely for babies:

Fruit:

Raw apples and pears

6 months +

  • peeled and cooked halves or large wedges
  • small pieces or grated, baked into mini pancakes or muffins

9 months +

  • very thin slices (with or without the skin)
  • grated (with or without the skin)

Cherry tomatoes

9 months +

  • cut into quarters, lengthwise

Whole berries and cherries

6 months +

  • baked whole in mini pancakes or muffins like our Easy and Yummy Mini Muffins
  • flattened into a disc (for blueberries as they should never be served whole)

9 months +

  • cut into quarters for blueberries
  • chopped into small pieces or slices for other berries

Whole grapes

6 months +

  • wait until baby can pick up food using their pincer grasp
  • cut lengthwise into quarters
  • remove skin if you prefer

Vegetables:

Raw carrots

6 months +

9 months +

  • grated
  • cooked (roasted, boiled, or steamed) sticks or cubes

 

Raw celery

6 months +

  • wait until baby can pick up food using their pincer grasp
  • cut into half moon slivers and sautee in olive oil/unsalted butter until soft
  • add slivers or small cubes to meals such as pasta sauces

Corn kernels

6 months +

  • serve on the cob
  • cooked in fritters/savoury pancakes

Legumes:

Whole chickpeas, beans, peas

6 months +

  • make a dip out of them and spread them on toast fingers

9 months +

  • smash or flatten them to form irregular shapes that they can pick up

Nuts and seeds:

Whole nuts and seeds

6 months +

  • only use nut or seed butters spread on toast strips or rice cakes
  • thin nut or seed butters with breastmilk, formula, applesauce, or yoghurt before serving as they can also pose a choking risk

Cheeses:

Hard cheese, particularly string cheese or cubes

6 months +

  • slice into very thin slices
  • grated and melted into, for example, fritters, toasted sandwich fingers

9 months +

  • grated raw

Meat:

Chicken

6 months +

  • chicken drumsticks with skin removed
  • large strips of breast or thighs
  • minced in homemade patties (commercial ones are often high in sodium)

9 months +

  • smaller strips of meat
  • smaller shredded pieces (not cubes)

Steak

6 months +

  • large strips

9 months +

  • shredded pieces

The following foods are not only choking hazards but are inappropriate to give to babies due to their high salt or sugar content:

  • popcorn
  • lollies
  • chips
  • sausages or hot dogs
  • sweet or dry biscuits
  • pretzels
  • marshmallows

More tips to reduce the risk of choking at mealtimes

  1. Complete a first aid-course for babies and children, and know exactly what to do if your baby is choking. There won’t be time to wait for an ambulance.
  2. Always feed your baby in a highchair or booster seat, sitting them upright and not reclined.
  3. Always supervise and sit with your baby while they’re eating. Choking is silent.
  4. Once they’re finished eating, remove any food from their hands. Check their mouth, and if there is still food in there, encourage them to spit it out, swallow it, or wash it down with a few sips of water.

Here are some great first finger foods to get started

  • Broccoli or cauliflower florets, steamed until soft
  • Avocado slices
  • Banana strips
  • Green beans, steamed until soft
  • Strips of baked salmon
  • Sweet potato fingers, roasted or steamed
  • Omelet strips or fritters
  • Mackerel pieces, rinsed and bones removed
X click to search
X