There is a stage on the texture continuum where infants are not quite ready for total finger feeding but they demand independence to ATTEMPT it. Often this is developmentally around 9/10 months. When I say 10 months developmentally, I don’t mean 10 months old. I simply mean the stage where your infant is: raking small objects and bringing them to the mouth (with inconsistent success actually getting it into the mouth), potentially crawling, pulling to stand, cruising along furniture and babbling.
At this stage, it is likely that your baby can manage very small pieces of soft foods (i.e. a piece of pancake half the size of your pinky fingernail). While fine motor accuracy is developing (picking up a small object with a raking motion and releasing), babies often want to do things themselves and may bat the spoon away. I find this demand for independence can be misinterpreted as a disinterest in eating!
Ideas for early finger foods that are easy to pick up:
-chopped black beans
-finely grated cheese
-scrambled eggs broken into small pieces
-shredded/diced baked salmon
-chopped, baked sweet potato
-broccoli cheddar cheese nuggets broken up into small pieces (see here for recipe)
-chopped up pasta and sauce (the stickiness makes it easier to pick up)
-sticky home-cooked oatmeal. Cook it so it clumps together.
-cooked small, sweet peas. You may have to slightly chop these to start with.
At this stage you should see your baby move a piece of food to the side of his mouth, use his lips to clear a spoon, and spill less when drinking from a straw. Meals will likely consist of a few different consistencies: one food that is a thick or lumpy puree, another soft food that is chopped or diced, and small pieces of sticky finger foods. This is a great stage to eat baked salmon as a family! For this brief period of time, you can adapt family meals to your baby’s oral-motor skills and simply add on the rest. Dinner for the baby might be the family’s lasagna (chopped up), yogurt and chopped up banana.
This is the messiest stage of eating. Truly. Sweeping and vacuuming is at an all time high. It sure is tempting to continue doing the feeding for your baby (if he lets you) and minimize the mess. A sure sign of a baby whose has been given the opportunity to learn self-feeding skills is a messy floor. This wonderful placemat can help to minimize the extent of the damage to the floor. Half the food your baby tries to get to his mouth will be dropped in his lap or on the floor. I find the Tiny Diner with food placed straight on the tray is more effective than the suction bowls. I have yet to find a bowl that sustains suction. In my experience, most meals where I use the suction bowl end up completely dumped. At this stage of fine motor bumbling, I would rather give the baby an empty bowl to explore and use the Tiny Diner to catch dropped food. Alternatively, throw a plastic table cloth under the high chair and shake it out after.
Good luck! Let me know if you’ve come across any other tricks for this stage.