There has been a proliferation of packaged baby finger foods that have hit the market over the last few years. It’s one of the reasons I decided to start my Monday Bites reviews – with so many foods to choose from, how do you decide which one is worth buying? And they are very appealing with their cute modern packaging, claims of being allergy friendly, and ‘all natural’. But let’s just pump the brakes for a second. All natural? Really?
Sure, they are usually made of naturally occurring ingredients. Wheat, corn, rice, fruit, vegetables. But that’s where the naturalness ends. These products are highly processed, and expensive because of it. So I thought, for a change, over the next month my Monday Bites reviews will be of unprocessed foods. Because who doesn’t want to feed their kids healthy food, help them learn to eat, and save money at the same time? The first food I’ve picked to review is the sometimes technically challenging WATERMELON.
Recommended age: not provided
Age you could probably offer this: 9+ months
Shape: any shape you want, but generally wedges/triangles are what I recommend
Size: I like to recommend bigger pieces, rather than small little cubes
Texture: soft bite & chew, with a surprise THIN LIQUID attack!
Ahhh watermelon. A summer classic, and loved by babies, toddlers, and adults alike! But it’s one of those foods that many younger children seem to struggle with eating. They cough, and splutter, and choke their way happily through this delicious juicy fruit. Why is that? On the outset, it seems soft and sweet and easy to chew. And this is all true. It has a lovely collapsible quality about it when you chew it, especially the very ripe fruit, because of the high water content. But this is also why some babies find it so hard to eat without choking or coughing. As you chew it, the juice is released and it creates a mixed texture in the mouth of solid food plus thin runny liquid.
Babies have a lot of trouble with mixed textures in the first place, because mixed textures require a lot of oral control (mixed textures are things like lumpy puree, yoghurt with fruit in it, pasta with sauce and veggies, etc). Your tongue needs to be able to stop the food from being scattered all through your mouth so that you can swallow it as one clean mouthful, and your lips need to stop all the food from coming out the front. And when you add a slippery liquid that can run all around the mouth, the level of oral control required is huge! Commonly for babies the juice tends to trickle down the throat before the baby is ready (cough cough splutter!) or the baby is so busy dealing with swallowing the juice that the lumps of unchewed fruit get accidentally swallowed (cough cough choke!).
But it’s delicious. So how can we help a baby to be able to eat watermelon without choking on the juice or the fruit itself?
I like to recommend larger pieces, rather than smaller. A nice big wedge of watermelon is easy for two little hands to grasp (especially as it can be slippery), and the baby is more likely to take a smaller bite than if you presented them with chopped up pieces – babies tend to put a whole piece into their mouth at once, often more than their little mouth can handle! Choosing ripe watermelon always helps, as the texture is softer and collapses more readily. And for younger babies who might be doing Baby Led Weaning, you can cut them a piece of the (washed) rind with some of the pink fruit flesh still on it so that they can suck the juice and use the rind as a hard mouthing-food. And at the end of the day, if you offer some watermelon and your child coughs and splutters the whole way through, it might be best to wait a little while before offering it again to allow your baby to develop their oral motor chewing skills a little bit more.
Lots to love about this challenging but delicious fruit. What does your baby think of it? (no star rating today because how could you compare watermelon with anything else?!)
And remember, always supervise your baby when they are eating, no matter how easy you think the food might be to eat.