Trying different tastes and textures are all part of the adventure — and believe us, it is an adventure. They’re going from smooth purees to lumpy lunches and fancy finger foods they can hold themselves, and somehow managing to throw all of it on the floor in between. So, with no further ado, prepare the area. “All eating needs to take place in the high chair, or with them sitting safely in your lap, with your baby sitting upright,” explains Alice Fotheringham, our infant nutritional specialist. Get the splash mat down if you think it’s going to get messy — it usually does… Then have their bib and baby bowls at the ready. “Always be in the room with them when they are eating,” adds Alice.
Overcook your veggies
While this is definitely something we usually do by mistake, overcooking your kid’s veggies is actually encouraged. “Slightly overcooking vegetables will help baby very easily bite through them,” explains Alice. Remember, your kid is only just developing their milk teeth, so chowing down on any dense texture will take some getting used to.
Alice’s pro tip: anything grown above ground (think greens) is best steamed using boiling water as that reduces the loss of vitamins. Veg grown under the soil (think root vegetables) can be cooked starting with a pan of cold water.
Avoid anything too hard
Whole nuts, raw carrot and apple are all going to be too hard for them to bite into. In fact, “harder pieces of foods such as nuts should not be given until around 5 years old,” advises Alice. That doesn’t mean everything is off limits. “You can start cooking vegetables with a little more bite around 1 year,” recommends Alice. By this point your kid will have more control of their mouth and some teeth to help bite down on al dente vegetables, she adds. Crunchy fruit and veg? That’s best avoided for the first couple of years too.
Skip round-shaped food
“Round-shaped food such as grapes, cherry tomatoes or popcorn should be avoided,” warns Alice because they run the risk of getting stuck in your kid’s mouth or throat. Tomato pieces chopped up small or mashed are absolutely fine; the same goes for grapes: halve them.
Finger foods are friends
Finger food helps your little monster get involved at mealtimes. They can squidge, mash and play with food before it reaches their mouth; it’s all in the name of learning about texture, we promise. Finger foods also help your kid indicate how much they want to eat. As a gauge for how big finger food should be, “offer stick shapes as long as their finger, which is easy for them to hold onto,” adds Alice.
Leave lumps in food
If you’re pureeing up food yourself, skip on the blender and mash it with a fork. This will give your parsnips, carrot or apple a thick, consistent texture. Then you’re ready to graduate onto lumps; this is where the real learning to chew begins. “If introducing lumps, make sure they are distinct lumps, such as cooked pasta in a sauce,” says Alice. That way, your kid can see the lump and expect it, rather than being surprised when they feel it in their mouth.
Just keep at it
Some kids take to lumpy foods faster, while others like the savour the smooth phase. Don’t worry if it’s taking a little longer; just keep at it. It can take 10 or more tries of a new flavour or texture for your baby to get used to it —- and that’s perfectly normal, NHS England assures us.