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Starting solids – why solid food is important for development

Baby using spoon to self feedStarting solids is a huge step in your baby’s life.

So much is going on – they are gaining more control over their body and muscles and they are experiencing totally new tastes and textures.

Developmentally, the introduction of solids is so important. Starting solids isn’t just about food – your baby is developing a range of skills that are crucial in later life.

Why solid food is important for baby’s development

It strengthens baby’s facial muscles

While your baby is busy being excited and intrigued by new flavours and textures, their face and mouth are learning new things. When they are chewing, they are moving their mouth and jaw in different ways to when they are breast or bottle feeding. Their muscles are working hard and becoming stronger. The same is happening with their tongue and lips.

It helps with speech development

Starting solid food helps baby’s speech development. The muscles we use for chewing food are the same muscles we use when speaking. As your baby’s jaw muscles, tongue, and lips get stronger, it will make speech easier. By strengthening these areas, your baby will be able to get their mouth around words easier and quicker.

READ: You can read more about starting solids in our Starting Solids Hub

It helps to develop fine motor skills and hand-eye co-ordination

An important part of starting solid food is learning to self feed. It is important for parents also to learn to cope with the mess of starting solids and to let babies explore food with their hands as well as their mouths (and faces, and high chair, and the floor… and sometimes the walls…). When babies start to feed themselves they are developing their fine motor skills and improving their hand-eye coordination.

Their arm muscles will also develop simply by bringing the food from the plate or tray to their mouth repeatedly. Where drop sheets come in handy is when those arms go outward rather than upward and your baby tests out how gravity works. Flinging food around can also be beneficial to those muscles – much to the dismay of the parent in charge of clean up.

You will probably notice your baby’s dexterity increasing once they’ve been eating solids for a little while.

It will help them learn to write later on

By touching the food, their hands and fingers will naturally start trying to pick up the food – and depending on what type of food they have, this can be difficult at first. As they keep trying, their hand and finger muscles will be strengthening and they’ll be developing the fine motor skills that will later be involved in drawing, writing, and other activities.

Firstly they’ll start holding the spoon or piece of food in their fist, the gradually learn the use their fingers in a more subtle way to pick up little pieces of food in a pincer grip (between thumb and forefinger).

 

While your bub is starting solids and exploring all those new tastes and textures, remember they are also developing those crucial skills and strengthening all those important muscles for later on in life. So keep up the different types of foods and give all those different muscles a workout!

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