The best finger foods for baby are most likely already in your fridge or pantry! Here’s a list of our top baby finger food recommendations, whether you’re trying baby led weaning, or just want ideas for foods you don’t have to spoon feed.
We like giving our babies finger foods, rather than purees, when they start solids. We feel that it teaches them a love of food and individual ingredients, and helps them discover the flavors and textures that different foods have. Tasting everything and exploring the textures of various foods has definitely become a huge part of cooking with our mini chefs, so it must have worked!
The most important part of feeding your baby finger foods is to stay close and watch them as they eat. That will also help you learn which foods they love, and which foods might need to chopped smaller or cooked to soften. And of course, we are not doctors, so none of this information should take precedent over the advice of your family pediatrician.
It’s always important to start introducing foods to baby one ingredient at a time so that you can monitor for any adverse reactions.
And don’t worry if baby doesn’t like something you offer them! It can often take several introductions to a food for baby to like it, so just try it again another time. You taking a bite first can also be a great help in getting them to try it.
What you’ll learn:
- The best finger foods for baby in various food groups (fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins)
- Our favorite dishes and tools for finger foods for baby
- Finger foods to avoid
- How to recognize choking vs gagging
Best Finger Foods for Baby: Vegetables
We like giving baby vegetables for their first solid foods because it can help some babies be more likely to want to eat vegetables even after getting to taste sweet fruits later on.
Avocado – Avocadoes are actually a fruit, but they are not sweet and tend to be used like a vegetable so I’m listing them here. Avocado has been the first solid food for both of our kids. You can cut it into chunks, or slice it into wedges they can hold in their fist. If you find the avocado is too slippery for them to grab, try rolling it in a small amount of rice cereal to give some texture.
Peas – Peas are a fantastic finger food for baby. You can defrost or steam frozen peas, but my absolute favorite peas are freeze dried. I am so obsessed with the convenience and quality of freeze dried produce! You can just soak their peas in water for 10 minutes, and get perfectly plump flavorful peas that look and taste even better than frozen. (These peas are an affiliate link but only because I love them so much that I joined the company! I was recommending them even before becoming a consultant)
Carrots – Steamed baby carrots are great for babies to practice holding and biting into. Just make sure they are cooled all the way through before giving to baby.
Broccoli – My kids had enough teeth as babies that I could give them a golf ball sized broccoli floret to hold and they would just bite off little pieces. If your babies don’t have many teeth, chop the florets into little pieces about the size of a pencil eraser for them to eat one by one.
Cucumber – This was one of my babies’ favorite foods ever. They don’t contain a ton of nutrition, but the cold cucumber spears felt so good on teething gums. They were also really easy to hold and gnaw on so great practice for eating.
Zucchini – These are so great cut into spears or wedges about two inches long. If they’re young and soft you don’t even need to cook them at all.
Onions?! – This depends on the baby. For some reason my daughter just really loves eating onions. Not sure if that’s true for all babies or not. I’d let her gnaw on them a bit after catching her with the one in the photo, but I peel them for her first. I’ve also had friends tell me that raw onion slices were a big help for their teething babies.
Best Finger Foods for Baby: Fruits
Babies tend to LOVE fruit! It’s got natural sugars, bright colors, and fun soft textures. Here’s a list of some of our favorite fruits for baby finger foods, and tips for prepping them. Fresh ripe fruits are usually best, but canned or thawed frozen fruits can work well too.
Berries – Depending on baby’s age and number of teeth, you may need to cut blueberries into four little wedges to prevent choking. Blackberries and raspberries are usually fine whole, and strawberries may need to be chopped. Our kids both had 8 teeth in front by the time they were 6 months old so were able to hold the whole strawberries and bite off little pieces. Our babies were pretty sensitive to acidic foods so only one strawberry a day for them or they would get awful diaper rash.
Bananas – Bananas are a wonderful first food for baby, but can be quite messy. We recommend stripping baby down to a diaper! You can cut the banana in half and then peel each half down to give them a bit of a handle. As they get older and have more dexterity, you can peel it completely and just give them the whole banana.
Pineapple – Cutting a pineapple into big spears gives your baby a really easy fruit to hold in their fist and gnaw on. Just like with strawberries and tangerines, make sure to limit the amount they eat in a day to avoid diaper rash.
Apples – This one definitely depends on your baby. If they don’t have many teeth, you may want to just chop up an apple into very small pieces (smaller than a pencil eraser) that they can gum around and swallow easily. If they have top or bottom teeth in front you can give them a big piece to scrape bits of apple off of, it’s a great time waster! If your baby has multiple teeth in front, they may actually be able hold a little apple and bite off small bits. This was my kids’ favorite eating activity. Make sure to give them close supervision as the peel especially can be problematic.
Clementines – Peeled and pulled apart clementine (or cutie) segments can be a great finger food for baby. They are quite juicy and messy, but great for gumming. Be aware that babies may sometimes gag on the outer membranes once they gum all the juice out. Also, my kids would sometimes get bad diaper rashes from the acidity so keep an eye out for that.
Pomegranate seeds – These can also be quite messy (and staining!), but they are perfectly sized for babies practicing their pincer grip, and their expression when they first burst in baby’s mouth is just delightful. We just stick them in the high chair wearing nothing but a diaper and let them go to town.
Stone fruits (cherries, apricot, plums, nectarines, peaches, pluots) – Stone fruits are juicy, messy, and delicious. How you serve them is again determined on your baby’s teeth and age. You can see in the video below that Corban just ate the plums whole, peel and all. We kept an eye on him for gagging on the peel and making sure he didn’t get the pit. If your baby doesn’t have as many teeth you will most likely want to cut them into bite sized pieces, or wedges for them to gum the flesh off the peel. For cherries, we bite off the half with the pit, and give baby the other half.
Grapes – See the danger food section below for warnings on feeding these safely.
Best Finger Foods for Baby: Grains
This is kind of a funky category as some of the items listed have multiple ingredients. So make sure to try those items in small amounts first to test for allergies or sensitivities.
Oats – Steel cut oats can make a great chunky, gooey, whole grain breakfast for baby. Just use 3 cups water for every cup of steel cut oats and cook them in a pot on medium high for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let the oats cool and drop by spoonfuls onto babies tray.
Rice – Plain cooked rice is another easy grain for baby. It’s quite messy, but once it dries it’s easy to brush off. We loved going out for sushi and getting a bowl of plain rice for the babies to eat/play with during dinner.
Rice noodles – Another restaurant favorite for us was rice noodles at our local Pho restaurant. At home, I would sometimes cook up some rice noodles (5 minutes in boiling water) and then rinse them in cold water if I wanted the baby to spend a long time eating in the high chair while I did dishes or something. They love the sensory experience!
Pasta – Pasta is a fun one for babies, especially spaghetti noodles! I usually cut the noodles in half so they don’t gag on a super long noodle. But both my babies have been pretty good at just biting off the amount they want from a handful of noodles.
Quinoa – Quinoa is one of the best finger foods for baby in the grain category because it is also a great source of protein. Just cook a small amount and let it cool, then pile it up on baby’s tray or in a bowl and let them grab it by the fistful.
Cheerios – This may just be one of the most popular finger foods for babies. We ended up getting an organic version of cheerios, but basically think any kind of whole grain small cereal with as few ingredients as possible. These are great for on the go as well.
Crackers – There are lots of good organic whole grain crackers out there that you can try. We like Annie’s Homegrown Whole Wheat Bunnies.
Toast – If your baby hasn’t had a problem with basic grains, try giving them a piece of whole grain toast cut into strips. These are great for gnawing on.
Best Finger Foods for Baby: Protein
- Proteins come in all sorts of shapes and forms, but here’s the ones we found pretty easy to feed baby.
Cheese – This depends on whether or not your baby tolerates dairy well. Our babies did not, but they could handle sheep’s cheese so I found a good sheep’s milk Manchego cheese that I would chop up for them. Just cut this into bite sized pieces, or give them slices they can hold and bite off.
Chicken – A cooked boneless skinless chicken breast or thigh chopped into small pieces is great for baby’s manual dexterity in practicing their pincer grip. I’ve also seen videos of babies eating drumsticks but we haven’t tried that one. Although Corban did do a turkey leg once! You can also do big strips or chunks of roast chicken pulled off the bone for them to hold and gum on.
Steak – When we cook steaks, we just cut a bit of steak up into tiny pieces the size of a pencil eraser.
Ground Beef – A plain hamburger patty is really easy for baby to hold and gnaw on. You can also just cook up some crumbly ground beef for them to practice their pincer grip while eating.
Fish – Any roasted fish fillet can be great for feeding baby as long as there are no bones. The awesome nutrition in seafood makes fish one of our favorite finger foods for baby. Our son would only eat salmon. Our daughter loved any seafood we put in front of her! Just make sure to check on mercury levels for knowing how much to feed baby of various fish.
Eggs – Eggs can be a common allergen for babies, so talk to your pediatrician about them. We usually start with a boiled egg yolk to test how they do. Scrambled eggs are great for older babies with a good pincer grip and less sensitive digestive system. Eggs can cause a lot of gas so be prepared and try them in the morning rather than evening so any ill effects won’t keep baby (and you!) up all night.
Beans and Lentils – Red beans, black beans, white beans, garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas) and lentils are all fantastic protein and great for practicing the pincer grip. Both of our babies would eat beans and lentils by the cupful if we would let them! Beans can also cause a lot of gas so be sure to try a little at a time to start.
Brazil nuts and Cashews – These are only for older babies with some molars, but they can be a great source of protein, and they’re softer nuts so easier for babies with teeth to chew. Definitely plan to observe closely while they eat them, and talk to your doctor about allergy risks before trying nuts.
Our Favorite Dishes and Tools for Finger Foods for Baby
These links are all to items that we’ve used on a regular basis to prepare or serve finger foods for baby. They are affiliate links which means if you purchase anything from Amazon using one of these links, we get a small commission, but your price stays exactly the same. Thanks for supporting our family business!
We received the ‘Lil Snacker Bib as a baby gift, and for some reason I thought it was kind of ridiculous. But then I learned that it is AMAZING for letting your baby eat finger food on the go. You can put cereal, blueberries, or freeze dried snacks in the bib, and they can’t throw it down like a cup or bowl, and anything they spill goes right back into the bib. This is our number one favorite bib now!
This grape cutter is a fast and easy way to cut grapes and cherry tomatoes into quarters. Even after our kids were old enough to eat the grapes whole, I still like it for cherry tomatoes for salads and pastas.
Snack catchers are great for the car or around the house when you want to give baby some snacks outside of the controlled environment of a high chair.
Bite Sizers are portable and food safe scissors that you can carry with you to cut up any food your eating into bite sized pieces for baby. We absolutely love them! Everything from pizza to spaghetti and meatballs can become finger foods for baby!
Finger Foods to Avoid
Now that we’ve gone over the BEST finger foods for baby, let’s talk about the worst. There are some foods that seem perfectly sized for feeding baby, but can actually be quite hazardous. Here’s a quick run down.
Popcorn – Yes it’s a whole grain, but it’s really easy for baby to choke on and get stuck in their throat.
Hot Dogs – Although these are the perfect size to fit in baby’s fist, they’re also a top choking hazard.
Grapes – These are another big choking hazard. You can however cut them up into chunks or slivers to feed baby safely, which is why we also called them one of the best finger foods for baby. Check out the grape cutter we link to above.
Dehydrated fruits – We had a scary choking moment when someone fed Corban a dried banana slice while I was wearing him in the ergo. The texture was just right to get stuck in his windpipe and I ended up throwing myself upside down to get it dislodged. Thankfully it was over with very quickly and he was fine. But dehydrated fruits are the perfect texture for inhaling. You’re better off with freeze dried fruits, which tend to dissolve in baby’s mouth. If you really want to try dehydrated fruits, use scissors to cut them into tiny pieces.
How to Recognize Choking vs Gagging
According to the Baby Led Weaning site, “Gagging is actually a safety response to food travelling too far back into the mouth so when we see our babies gagging they are actually handling the problem and it’s best just to keep calm (or at least look calm) and wait until it passes. Choking, you will know about. The baby looks panicked, no or very little sound can come out, and lips may actually start turning blue. Be smart, educate yourself and know how to act quickly. ”
Gagging will make noise, choking is usually silent. Either way, stay calm and think through your actions.
I HIGHLY encourage every parent to take an infant CPR and first aid class, and they will let you practice what to do with a doll. It’s a great way to have confidence that you can handle a choking episode.
Choking can happen even if you don’t do finger foods for baby. I choked on a candy from a friend when I was two, and my mom turned me upside down, smacked my back, and got it out pretty quickly. Knowing exactly what to do when baby chokes can help you handle it quickly and efficiently with as little trauma as possible to baby.
No parent wants to think about their baby choking or stopping breathing, but being prepared can save their life. Here’s a Red Cross training video if you need a place to start.
SHARE YOUR FAVORITE FINGER FOODS FOR BABY!
We always love hearing from you. Please share your favorite finger foods for baby in the comments below. Are there some we need to add to the list?
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