Whereas once parents ticked off their children for playing with their food, the modern mum can relax when her baby messing around with their peas and carrots – at least for the first year. This is according to a survey by baby food brand Organix, which suggests that 93 per cent of mothers believe that it is important for babies to play with and experiment with food.
Dr Frankie Phillips, nutrition advisor to Organix, agrees that allowing independence at the table helps children to have a positive attitude to food, “Finger foods are a great way of offering variety to your child, as they provide a whole new world of exciting tastes, textures, shapes and colours to your baby, in foods that are easy for them to grab and get hold of so they feel more in control of their choices,” he says.
Finger foods help develop hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills, and improve dexterity.
“Mixing up textures, shapes and colours and encouraging little ones to play and experiment with food helps them gather sensory information and learn how to accept new foods. From chewy pasta, to crispy rice cakes, melt in the mouth corn puffs, crumbly baby biscuits and squishy strawberries, you can offer lots of texture choices to help develop your baby’s curiosity about food and build their confidence and enjoyment.”
Frankie explains that as well as encouraging self-feeding, independence and autonomy, finger foods come with lots of other benefits for little ones, such as developing hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills, and improving dexterity.
According to psychologist Dr Angharad Rudkinvariety the colours, shapes and sizes of finger foods give chidlren a range of sensory experiences. “Babies learn through their senses in the first two years of life,” she explains. “When you introduce a new food to your child, by giving them an opportunity to touch it, squish it and rub it between their hands, you are allowing them to use all of the resources they have to learn about that food.”
Some creative ideas…
You can mix up purees with finger food so your baby has a choice of tastes, textures and shapes to explore. Try to arrange it in a fun way on the plate; don’t worry you don’t have to have an art degree just a little imagination.
–– a caterpillar made with cucumber and tomato rice cakes and pieces of salad and vegetables