Every Monday I review a food that could be a potential finger food for your baby or toddler, particularly if you are doing Baby Led Weaning with your child. There are lots of targeted products out there for little ones, and it can be easy to just buy those products and get stuck in a rut. But there are LOADS of other options out there for finger foods. Over the last month I’ve been reviewing regular foods that would normally be considered food for adults or older kids (including Ginger Nuts, Popcorn, Breadsticks and Baked Beans).
On the menu today for review are Ritz crackers. Crackers can be really tricky for little mouths to chew – do Ritz fall into this category? The ‘too tricky’ basket?
Recommended age: not provided
Age you could probably offer this: 8 - 9+ mo
Size: regular cracker size
Texture: crunch then melt-in-the-mouth
A lot of the baby finger foods that you can buy are melt-in-the-mouth in texture (if you’ve never eaten them – think of how a prawn cracker just dissolves in your mouth once it hits your saliva). I call them ‘baby puffs’. Little puffs of air in various shapes that rapidly dissolve in the mouth. The baby food companies will tell you they’ve picked this texture is because it helps oral motor development. But my guess is that it’s also because it’s low risk as a choking hazard, they are a bit addictive (even as adults we love Twisties, Cheezels, Burger Rings...) and you can charge a fortune for what is, essentially, processed air.
Baby puffs have their place in oral motor development, for sure. But their need is short lived. Because they melt away so quickly, they don’t require any chewing.
So it’s important to offer your baby finger foods that don’t melt in the mouth quite so rapidly. That way, your baby can practice biting and chewing (the two key oral motor skills for learning to eat) but still have the safety of their saliva to make the food soft and easy to swallow (in case they can’t chew it up completely).
Enter: Ritz! Ritz fulfills this criteria really well. They require an initial bite, and they needs some rough attempts at chewing, but they do go soft and they are then easy to swallow. Sometimes Ritz can be even a bit better than Cruskits, because if you put a spread onto Ritz (like cream cheese, peanut butter or avocado) they won’t go all soggy and weirdly chewy like Cruskits do.
So give them a go! They are handled best if your baby has some teeth, but even determined gummy babies can have a go at these ones pretty early on.
And remember, always supervise your baby when they are eating, no matter how easy you think the food might be to eat.