At her six-month check-up, my daughter’s pediatrician gave us some surprising news.

She’s ready for some puffs.

Some puffs? Puffs? What’s puffs?

I asked, but I wasn’t ready to hear it.

You know, those little Cheerio-like snacks. She swiveled her chair around to face us. Food she can pick up and feed herself.

Wha??? I could not believe what I was hearing. Pick up and feed herself? No, no, no. Oh my! She was living in my belly what felt like a few short months ago. She was not ready for this degree of self-sufficiency.

You know what I used to love to give me kids?  she went on, oblivious to how hard I was taking the news that my little baby daughter was growing up. On schedule. Just as planned. Pirate’s Booty. It’s great because the pieces are big enough to hold with their hands. And you can find it almost anywhere now so if you’re out and you need something for her you can just grab that.

But she doesn’t even have teeth, I warned.

Isla just started eating rice cereal a little over a month ago—and eating was a stretch of the word. She was doing a more slurping type thing, which resulted in only a small portion of what we spooned up to her mouth getting into her belly. The rest ended up… well, everywhere, of course. (Cheeks, forehead, fingers, obvious. Eyelids, ears, diaper, yes diaper!, I have NO clue.) Anwyay…

They can gum it. It’s great, she explained.

Guuum it?? Whaaa? Is gumming even acceptable behavior? I started questioning whether this doctor had any idea what she was talking about, despite the ten dozen photographs of her glowing, healthy children-patients sticky-tacked to the wall behind her.

Oh, and the best part, you can snack on it too! I know it’s so hard it is to find time to eat with a little one, she finished. (Clearly, finding time to eat was hard for her, thin, beautiful, professional thing that she is. I still had not lost my priorities, however, and did have time to eat, and to snack, and to dine, and drink, and to do anything else that involved putting tasty deliciousness into my mouth.)

Anyway, as I came out of my hazy disbelief, I heard any other questions? The appointment was over.

I called my husband as soon as we got out of there. Guess what? The doctor said Isla’s ready for some finger foods, like, to feed herself!?!

Oh, that’s great! He said. Everything else okay? Her weight and height and all that? 

Yes, but? That is too crazy!

No, this is good news. Good stuff! he insisted.

Oh boy! Without him on my side I realized I was going to have to relent and give in to the idea. It took me a several trips to the grocery store, Whole Foods, and Mrs. Green’s before I finally caved into the chorus of foods in the baby aisle that were seemingly chanting Try me. Try me. Try me. Try me whenever Isla and I pushed by. I settled on a container of Happy Baby Organic Puffs Greens, to start.

And we were off… within days, game-for-anything Isla was picking up the puffs and popping them in (or dropping them near) her mouth. When we ran out, I got a little braver and tried a few other baby pick-em-up foods. Of course, it was hard to decide on which ones but after a bit of trial and error, here’s a selection of favorites we now turn to on the regular, some more often than others…

The fun begins!

Anyway who has ever watched a baby try to pick a piece of food with their chubby little fingers and get it into their mouth will understand why the process….FASCINATES ME!

Such intense concentration, such unwavering determination, such perseverance…

So much exhilaration. So much celebration once (if ever) a tasty morsel ends up savored in the mouth.

(Isla, for one, shakes her hands around and bangs her heals against the bottom of her high chair.)

If my daughter approaches challenges in life with half as much gusto, she’ll be a mighty successful woman indeed!

The mixture of delight, pride, curiosity and admiration I feel while watching her attempt to master picking up each new shape, texture and size must be the reason I was willing to try to many different foods.

Here’s a list of our favorites, in the order I introduced them. {Note: Always, always, always supervise baby while eating any of these pick-up snacks.};

  • Happy Baby Organic PuffsGreat starter pick-up food that, like some other foods mention here, promise to dissolve in the mouth which reduces the risk of choking. Compared to other ‘puffs’ on the market, they have the best nutrient profile (for example, I notice more protein, potassium, and vitamins A, C, E and D compared to Gerber and Plum Organics.) I opt for the spinach, collard greens and kale flavor since these vegetables are so potent nutrient-wise but, in actuality, according to the nutrition panel there’s no noticeable difference in nutrient content among the flavors of this brand. Isla eats a handful of these almost daily as a sort of appetizer/activity for her to do in the high chair while we’re getting the rest of her meal ready.
  • Baby Mum-Mum. I love these crackers because there’s no high chair required for eating—in other words, unlike the puffs, she doesn’t need a clean, flat surface to pick them up from. (Okay, what I’m really trying to say here is that they’re great ‘car food’ if you believe in such things.) I hand one back when Isla’s getting fussy on a long ride after talking and singing have run their course. Also good when you’re at the zoo, park, or other outdoor place, and have no table to sit at. One caveat: they’re very sticky—if pieces fall away (and they will) you’ll need a damp cloth to get them up off of clothing, car seats, etc. Again, we eat the vegetable ones but there’s not noticeable difference in nutrition between flavors according to the nutrient panel. These are another snack food the we have almost daily (any day where we’re out and about for long periods of time, at least).
  • Earth’s Best Organic Teething Biscuits. These biscuits are a long-term activity. You can use them as a snack if you need your baby to stay put and occupy his or herself for a period of time, say… like 5 minutes. (Ha!) Seriously, as an alternative to an episode of Yo Gabba Gabba, one of these biscuits can entertain Isla for a good little while. They’re recommended for 9 months and older but we started her on them as early as 7 months. I’ve never relied on them as a teething salve (Isla hasn’t needed on yet) but that’s what they’re marketed as. Barley is our flavor—it has 2% more iron (minimal, but every bit helps) than the wheat. Plus, barley isn’t a grain she eats as often as wheat, so this is an opportunity to vary her diets (which I try to do as much as possible). Warning: they are a sticky mess that requires a bath afterwards. If you don’t believe me, see below. We give this to Isla about once a week.
  • Happy Baby Organic Munchies.Remember the Pirate’s Booty my pediatrician recommended? This is similar stuff, minus the sodium. In fact, they are completely sodium free. They’re bigger than the puffs so baby can hold one in her hand and ‘gum’ it for a bit (like the teething biscuits, of course, but these go down faster.)
  • St. Amour’s Teethers.These biscuits boast being vegan, no dairy, no eggs, no yeast, no salt, no cholesterol, and preservative-free so, if you’re into that sorta thing for baby or you’re sidestepping an allergy, you’ll love them. I, personally, don’t keep them in our snack repertoire because of what they lack; I stock them because they have the most intoxicating, lemony smell that reminds me of being a little, itty bitty wee thing myself. These biscuits, like the others, are a big project to eat—and twice as much mess. (I don’t understand the ‘mess-free’ claim on their web site.) We feed ’em to Isla only in the confines of our own home, and when we have the luxury of a nice long soak in the bathtub afterwards. (If you do otherwise, don’t say I didn’t warn you.) Blissfully, and quite bizarrely, the lemony scent lingers even post scrub-down so your petite bebe will be sweet-smelling afterwards.

Now, as soon as I can get over my fear of choking, Isla will be picking up all kinds of other foods… and, hopefully, more wholesome ones, like fresh blueberries, peas, carrots, bananas, eggs, pancakes, meats, and more. ∗