How to Offer Bite-Size Table Foods to Your Baby
Updated: Sep 15, 2019
The transition to table foods can be very scary for parents of older infants. One of the most common questions we get is, "How big should the pieces be?". The guideline we use is to try to offer cube-shaped pieces the size of the tip of your pinky finger. Parents typically start with minuscule pieces of food, which does not really encourage any kind of chewing as the baby cannot really feel where the pieces are in her mouth or move them appropriately. Another obstacle is that those tiny pieces do not lend themselves to self-feeding. The pincer grasp typically emerges around 9 months of age, but even the most coordinated baby cannot pick up a rice-sized piece of soft chicken!
Early finger foods should be soft (think cooked carrots or ripe avocado) but this also means they can be slippery - in the mouth and on the tray. There are a few strategies we typically use to help make this transition more successful. With fresh fruits, you can roll the pieces in graham cracker crumbs and with veggies, roll them in Ritz cracker crumbs (to make crumbs, throw a few crackers in a ziplock bag and use your rolling pin to crush them up). The crumbs will allow your baby to pick them up more easily and will also help her to know that these pieces are for chewing (crumbs often help elicit chewing instead of mashing). The second strategy is to offer pieces of food on a pre-loaded fork. our favorite utensils for this are the Take N' Toss toddler forks which work great. Again, you can continue to offer bites of food or purée in between your baby's successes to keep the mealtimes appropriately short and avoid frustration, but your baby will be able to exert her independence and participate in this social and enjoyable experience.
The other option is to follow the guidelines of the Baby-Led Weaning approach and offer whole pieces of food your baby can hold and work at. This approach is definitely for the more laid back parents and not for the anxious ones, but is a great option for some families. An "in between" strategy is the use of a silicone feeder such as the Kidsme Food Feeder which can be used to offer chewable foods with a safety net! You can put food in from your plate (i.e., meatballs, roasted potatoes, salmon, etc) to let your baby experience the flavors and practice chewing without worrying at all!
Either way, if you and/or your baby are truly struggling with this transition, please seek help! Ongoing challenges at this stage of the game will soon be complicated by typical toddler feeding issues and can result in long term picky eating habits.
For ideas on table foods for toddlers, check out Food Ideas on our Pinterest board!