Toddlers grow so quickly. In just a blink of an eye they move from bottle to eating with their tiny fingers. When this happens is different for everyone, but they can usually start eating bite-size pieces of food around 9 months (though make sure to check with your pediatrician to make sure she is ready). Your little one’s food preference is also just as unique and unpredictable as everything else about them, which adds to the “What do I serve?” challenge. I have two kids, and two is enough to know this. My older is a super-picky, neat and pristine eater who would never dare try a dip or sauce. The other is fearless in trying new food, could live on dips alone, and finds a glorious thrill in making as big a mess as possible on the ground beneath her. Feeding takes a lot of trial and error. – but don’t worry! Together you’ll figure it out in no time.
Luckily, there are plenty of options to keep even the pickiest kid happy with what’s on their tray and plenty of ways to mix and match foods to get him used to pairing flavors together. When choosing food items, there are generally two options: Chop it up or mush it up. You can either cut up bite-size pieces of easy-to-chew, soft foods, as in, overripe fruit and well-cooked veggies. Or, you can mush them up, alone or in combination.
I found these pairings of food work beautifully together, both in taste and texture.
Bananas dipped in crushed Cheerios. The Cheerios help baby grasp the soft fruit.
Mango and kiwi.
Peaches dipped in yogurt and then in crushed Cheerios
Hard-boiled eggs and soft pasteurized cheeses.
Steamed zucchini and bananas.
Avocado dipped in crushed Cheerios.
Spiral pasta and peas.
Cooked carrot and avocado (this may look odd, but trust me, it’s delicious).
Roasted sweet potatoes dipped in crushed Cheerios.
Early finger food feeding TIPS:
As always, make sure your toddler is seated comfortably in a feeding chair, never leave your her unattended while eating, and pay attention for possible allergies.
When cutting food in pieces, use a Cheerio as a guideline for size. This is about as big as the pieces should be when they’re starting out feeding themselves.
To mash food, you can use a food mill, baby food maker, blender, food processor, or, my favorite, a fork. Maybe my pastry blender tool, if I’m feeling adventurous.
To quickly steam a sweet potato in the microwave, pierce the potato in several places with a fork. Wrap the potato in a damp paper towel and microwave on high about 5 minutes or until the inside is tender. When cool, peel and cut into small pieces.
To steam veggies, such as zucchini, squash or carrots, places slices in a microwave-safe bowl. Add a few tablespoons of water. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and make a slit in the wrap with a knife. Microwave for four to ten minutes, depending on the vegetable, or until desired softness is achieved. Drain and let cool completely.
And remember, many messes await you. This was my daughter’s first time trying food. Little did I know then, this is scarcely a mess at all. Just wait until they try feeding themselves with utensils!
Meaghan Mountford, author of Sugarlicious: 50 Cute and Clever Treats for Every Occasion, has been creating crafty sweets for 15 years. She is especially fond of decorating cookies, marshmallows and putting sweets on sticks. See more on her blog, the decorated cookie.