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Toddler Finger Foods: The Next Step for Little Eaters

After baby food, the next step in eating is moving onto toddler finger foods. That’s when your baby’s food world really opens up.

In this article, you’ll learn why this stage is important for toddler development, some toddler finger food ideas, and how to keep this a fun feeding stage!

toddler finger foods: next step for little eaters

The End of the Honeymoon Stage of Feeding

Starting solids with your baby is a rewarding time. It’s full of adventure and new experiences. Many parents feel successful because feeding is fun.

Your baby is open to new flavors, textures and experiences. I call this the Honeymoon Stage of Feeding. The time when you and your baby are in sync, and your baby eats anything.

By the end of the second year of life, things begin to change.

Your baby is becoming a toddler, and he wants more independence with eating. Feeding gets harder. And may become less enjoyable.

You and your child may struggle.

Toddler Finger Foods as a Solution

You probably already know that what a young child eats early on in life contributes significantly to their taste preferences later.

For example, if sweets are offered early and regularly, a preference for these foods may develop.

But what you may not know is that your toddler will become more and more curious. She may want to begin exploring her world independently, and that includes eating, too. This is all part of the developmental changes we expect to happen in toddlerhood.

What this means is eating can get messy!  Many toddlers all of a sudden want to feed themselves and will refuse any food that they need help with (even a previously well-loved food).

Enter: Toddler finger foods.

Even though a lot of food can end up on the floor, in their chair and on themselves, allowing self-feeding is so very important.

Finger food for toddlers can be the gateway to independent eating.

Although it can be frustrating with all the extra clean up, rest assured the time doesn’t last too long. Remember your little one is learning a lot about eating and feeding!

6 Toddler Finger Food Ideas for Independent Eating

So, which toddler finger foods will help foster independence, self feeding skills and provide great nutrition? Here are 6 ideas to get you started:

1. Soft, cut up fruit and vegetables.

Fruit is a great finger food for little ones. Blueberries, raspberries and halved strawberries are great for toddlers practicing their pincer grip.  So are steamed or soft cooked peas, broccoli, avocado chunks and carrot, beet root or sweet potatoes pieces.

Giving peeled, soft whole fruit such as pears, soft apple or whole vegetables such as red pepper and tomato allows young toddlers to hold the whole fruit or vegetable in their hand and take small bites on their own.

If toddlers start to refuse certain fruit and vegetables, don’t panic!

Keep exposing them to a wide variety without pressure about whether they eat it or not to give them a chance to learn to like something new.

Sometimes presenting a fruit or vegetable cut up in a different way (for example carrot pieces, shredded carrot or steamed carrot sticks) will intrigue toddlers enough to give it a try!

2. Eggs

Either scrambled or hard-boiled and chopped, eggs are a quick, easy and nutritious finger food.

3. Beans

Chickpeas, kidney beans, and black beans are a great source of fiber and protein as well as iron.

Choose either a dried version that you have cooked, or for a quick option choose a canned BPA and sodium free variety such as Eden organic.

This recipe for Baby Bean Bites is a good finger food for the toddler, too.

4. Whole grain pancakes

Whip up a batch of oatmeal whole wheat pancakes and cut into bite size pieces.

Freeze the remaining pancakes for a quick meal or snack on another day. These pancake muffins are an easy finger food alternative, too.

5. Kamut puffs

A soft cereal made by Nature’s Path.  It’s a quick and portable snack on the go for little toddlers and it’s sugar-free, salt-free, and is a good source of fiber.

Make it into a trail mix using sunflower seeds and an O-shaped cereal (Earth’s Best brand is a nice option).

Here are some other toddler snack ideas that are great options.

6. Homemade mini muffins

Purchase a mini muffin tin and make batches of banana, oatmeal, bran or blueberry muffins.

Add in extra nutrition by adding ground flax or hemp hearts to boost up omega-3 fat intake (and taste).

Freeze extra portions for a quick finger food snack on another day.

Need more healthy muffin recipes for kids? Read: 23 Healthy Muffins for Kids.

And remember to enjoy this time with your little one – this stage goes by so quickly!

Toddler picking a raspberry out of an adult's hand.

Need More Help with Feeding Your Child?

Visit my parent education website, The Nourished Child, for classes, workshops and guidebooks that will help you nourish and nurture your child to optimal health.

This article was originally published in July 2013 | Updated in October 2020.

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