“I Do It!”: Nutritious Finger Foods That Are Also Fun for Fine-Motor Practice

When our babies start eating solids, we sometimes get so obsessed with what they're eating that we often forget the importance of how they're eating. While it is important to pay attention to the nutritional content we put into our kids' bodies, we would be wise to also teach them how to feed themselves too.


Having your toddler feed herself not only will develop her confidence in trying new foods, it is also an important part of her development. She's putting everything into her mouth anyway—why not teach her the proper time and place to do so?

Practicing a pincer-grasp (when baby pinches her thumb and finger together to grasp a small object) is extremely important to developing her hand-eye coordination, and meal-time is the perfect opportunity to work on this skill.

Self-feeding is also a great way for your little one to experience sensory processing, as she touches warm, cool, sticky, slimy, or crumbly textures on her hands and face and in her mouth, and learns it's OK. It will also develop independence, so you're not still spoon-feeding at the same time you're trying to potty-train. (A parent can only do so much at once, after all.)

If you're worried about baby not being able to chew her food before her teeth come in, mimic her little pincer-grasp and test to see if you can mush a food between your thumb and forefinger. If it mushes, your baby will be able to chomp down and "chew" it up with her gums. 

Robin Barrie Kaiden, a licensed registered dietician based in New York, reviewed our meal plans and provided CafeMom with insights on developing fine motor skills through feeding. “Finger foods such as baked regular or sweet potatoes, cooked vegetables—like carrots, peppers, and green beans—and diced soft fruit—like pears, peaches, and cooked apples—are a great way to develop that pincer grasp,” Robin told us. “And dipping into yogurt (for calcium!) also helps to get all the nutrients that fruits and vegetables provide.”

Beech-Nut has a variety of awesome finger foods made with simple ingredients that you can give your toddler right from the package, like Apple Pumpkin Fruit & Veggie Melties or Strawberry Apple Yogurt Melties (one of my 16-month-old daughter's personal favorites, by the way), but you can also use other baby food products in some simple recipes for toddler finger foods. 

1. Any baby food as a dip: This one is especially good for extra coordination practice for babies who have celebrated their first birthday already. Just spoon a little baby food into a small plastic bowl, give your toddler some dippers, and let him have at it. Favorite combos at our house are graham crackers with Beech-Nut Naturals Just Mango, and fishie crackers with Beech-Nut Naturals Just Carrot, Corn & Pumpkin. And since the brand’s Naturals range of jar purees are 100% natural with no artificial ingredients, it’s an easy snack I can feel good about serving!

2. Crackers with Creamy Veggie Spread: This is a great way to not only get some protein into your toddler, but some superfoods as well. Just mix a little cream cheese with any veggie-based baby food like Beech-Nut Naturals Just Spinach, Zucchini & Peas, and spread a layer on some crackers for your little one to enjoy.

3. Punched-Up Fruity Pancakes: Mix up your favorite pancake batter (I won't tell if you use a mix if you don't tell on me either), but add a jar of a fruit-based Beech-Nut baby food before pouring those circles on the griddle. Our favorites are Naturals Just Apple & Blackberry, and Naturals Just Pear & Blueberry.

4. Pasta with Veggie Sauce: What, you've never heard of baby food as pasta sauce? Trust me, your kid is going to love it. Cook up a batch of shaped pasta like spirals or wagon wheels that are easy for little fingers to grasp onto, and coat with a jar of Beech-Nut Naturals Just Peas, Green Beans & Asparagus before serving.

5. Mini Quiches: Use either a muffin tin or mini muffin tin to make some veggie egg cups for your toddler, but call them quiches to be fancy. Just add a pouch of Beech-Nut Organic Corn, Kale & Quinoa to half a dozen beaten eggs, distribute evenly in a greased muffin tin (about six for a regular sized muffin tin), and bake for 7 - 8 minutes at 350 degrees.

Design: Stacy Lenz

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