Is your baby ready? Most babies are ready to try soft, solid finger foods between six and nine months. Some signs that they are ready are the ability to mash food with gums, using a pincer grasp to pick things up, and an interest to try what you are eating (reaching for your food).
Initially, I would hold a very small piece of food directly in front of my son’s mouth and let him use my fingers as a utensil. When his manual dexterity seemed up to the challenge, I would let him use his own hands. This sometimes took a very long time, as he would have trouble grasping or drop pieces just as he was close to succeeding. Just be patient and try to let you baby work it out independently under your watchful eye. The learning process is worth the wait.
Some tips from our highchair to yours:
Dust slippery foods with wheat germ or finely ground flax for added nutrition and to make them a tad easier to pick up: Mangos, avocado, bananas, peaches, melon, etc.
Start with very small pieces that could go down without chewing, in case chewing is neglected. You can gradually offer larger pieces of food as your baby gets the hang of it and begins to bite pieces off. Some foods are particularly easy to serve as they don’t need much slicing: grapes (quartered), soft bananas (I usually just pull a small pice straight off the banana), etc. In many cases, I would forgo the knife and cutting board and just share a piece of fruit with my son, biting off a small piece for him and handing it to him each time. Bananas were particularly good for this and ideal for on the go.
Place food directly on their tray, two or three pieces at a time. Its easier to keep things off the floor this way. They are going to play with their food and drop (or even throw) some along the way. Try not to feel bothered by this and just get used to cleaning the tray, the floor and back and seat of the chair after each use. Making a mess with his/her food is one of the few ways your young tot can express his/her self–so let them have that and save manners for later.
There are a number of store bought items that make for great finger food training as well. I particularly love Happy Baby Melts and Earth’s Best Organic Teething Biscuits.