*This is a collaborative post
When the babies started weaning, and we went down the baby led weaning route, we didn’t really think anything of it – it just seemed natural to us and we gave the children ‘finger food’ for all of their meals and snacks.
But now, Kiddylicious have identified that most conversation about baby and child snacking is focussed on nutrition and appetite. No-one ever really talks about why snacks and finger foods are so great for a baby’s development from a psychological, sensory and physiological perspective. It’s all just about what they’re eating rather than why.
But playing with food and experimenting with flavour and texture helps a baby to develop their five senses, develop muscles and increase hand-eye coordination. The six-month stage is the critical time for all this development and also the time at when most parents will start to introduce solid foods and so, partnering with Dr. Jacqueline Harding, Kiddylicious have produced a downloadable guide and feature film to help parents learn about what their little ones are experiencing and the benefits of snacking with finger foods can have on a baby’s development, such as:
- Improved head and neck control – this can help babies to safely swallow foods
- Improved tongue control – this can help babies learn how to chew, swallow and move foods from side to side in their mouth
- Jaw movement – enabling babies to suck, bite and munch on foods, even without teeth
- Taste-bud development – allowing them to recognise which flavours they like and dislike (essential for exploration and food acceptance)
- Hand-eye co-ordination – helping them to learn how to self-feed
- Practice using all the mouth, lip and jaw muscles – helps oral development and speech
It’s not surprising, really, that almost half of parents see snacking as a negative food habit – even when talking about healthy snacks – and that they really just focus on meal times. However, the simple process of eating snacks by themselves can be really beneficial for a child, as well as part of a healthy, balanced diet.
This new research from Kiddylicious really reinforces the reasons we loved baby led weaning, and have always been happy to give the children healthy snacks in between meals. One thing we always found so important was to offer the children as much of a variety as possible and Kiddylicious have some great tips for discovering tastes, textures and also simply learning to eat:
- The more the merrier! Research shows us that children like foods they are familiar with and are regularly exposed to, so that is a great reason to offer plenty of variety to ensure they build a liking for a variety of foods; try gentle textures and mild flavours at first like our “melt in the mouth” wafers and puffs
- Experiment with fruits and vegetables – a robust stick of cucumber is great with its cold, slimy texture to soothe sore gums and bananas are always a popular sweet treat
- Let your baby try out their “pincer grip” as soon as they can. They will start to bring food (and anything they can get their little hands on) up to their mouths.
- Enjoy the whole experience, it takes a fair bit of practice to perfect self-feeding, and baby won’t always be on target so don’t worry about any mess!
It goes without saying, always be at your baby’s side as they experiment with finger foods – never leave them alone. Also, seek advice from your health visitor and GP about allergies or food intolerance and nutrition as each baby has different individual needs. But, for us, this style worked really well and it’s amazing to hear that there is actually research to now back up why finger foods are such a positive thing for a child’s development.
You can find out more about this great research on the Kiddylicious website and can also download the handy guide – and make sure you watch the fun feature film below: