You have many choices when it comes to offering your baby foods that he can pick up on his own. His pincer grasp—which allows him to pick up small items with his thumb and fingers, rather than raking them in with his whole hand—is improving. Finger foods let him practice this emerging skill while also giving him some control over feedings.

Finger foods should be bite-size or precut (because his teeth can’t yet do the job) and quick to dissolve. Also be mindful of the number of pieces you set out: If you place 20 cereal Os in front of him, they may all end up in his mouth at once, so offer just a few at a time. Likewise, this approach will help to reduce mess and let him feel in control of asking (or signaling) for more.

Some good finger foods to start with:

  • O-shaped cereal
  • Rice cakes
  • Very ripe, peeled pear or banana pieces
  • Tofu chunks
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Well-cooked green beans
  • Well-cooked pasta, such as tubes or shells
  • Well-cooked, shredded fish or chicken
  • French toast or pancakes
  • Well-cooked, cubed squash, potatoes, or sweet potatoes
  • Chicken soup with vegetables and rice (the chicken should be soft and can be mashed, along with the cooked vegetables and rice, and the soup should not be served too hot)

In the past few years, pediatricians have dramatically changed their recommendations for introducing solid foods. Recent studies have shown that the order of the introduction of foods after six months of age has no bearing on future allergies. In fact, early introduction of a wide variety of foods not only creates a better, more adventurous eater but also may decrease allergies to these foods later in life because your baby is being sensitized to them earlier.

Finally, when you introduce different foods, have fun and try a wide variety of the flavors that your family commonly eats. Experiment with new foods as well, and don’t forget to retry foods that your child didn’t seem to like the first time. It may take a dozen or so attempts before your child develops a taste for something new.

Avoid offering your baby any foods that pose a choking risk, such as firm pieces of meat or cheese, raw vegetables, popcorn, hot dogs, chewing gum, hard candy, and whole grapes.

—Scott Cohen, MD, pediatrician and author of Eat, Sleep, Poop: A Common Sense Guide to Your Baby’s First Year