Having your toddler transition from baby food to solids can either prove to be a breeze or a challenge. Many first-time parents ask which age is appropriate to introduce their child to solid food from puréed ones. A pediatrician can help decide when and what to feed your baby. And while there isn’t a set period for the transition, there are practical way to prepare your bundle of joy for real food.

Give thicker purées as an intro to solid food

To get babies ready for solid food, you can help them strengthen the muscles in their mouth by giving thicker purées to eat. Start doing this a couple of weeks prior to transitioning them from baby food. If you have been giving your child baby food from jars, add a bit of puréed vegetables or fruit to it. You can also try thickening it with some cereal.

Demonstrate the art of chewing

When you have your baby’s attention during mealtime, pick up some of the food and put it in your mouth in a slow, exaggerated motion. Then start to make chewing noises and gestures. Open your mouth once in a while to demonstrate what is happening to the food. It may be tiring and a bit silly, but it’s a great introduction to show baby how to self-feed.

Watch out for self-feeding cues

Once your baby starts picking up the food and trying to put some in their mouth, you’ll know they’re ready for solids. A self-feeding baby also has a relatively strong grasp, or knows how to “pinch” food with their fingers. Regular spoon-grabbing and spitting of thin puréed food may also be indications, but you have to make sure they aren’t just reacting negatively to the food or the feeding.

Go for foods that easily dissolve

Your baby is definitely ready for the big switch from baby food to solids if they easily mash thick purées with their gums. Knowing how to deal with the occasional lumps and strange textures in thickened baby food means they are ready for the real thing. Start with mashed bananas and other soft fruit. Slowly introduce a new variety of mashed food, including boiled potatoes and carrots. You can also opt for branded “transition” food that easily dissolves with saliva. Just make sure to monitor everything new you introduce to your baby and their reactions to each, such as gagging and coughing.

Solid food, cubed

To encourage children to pick up their own food and feed themselves, give them diced portions. They need to feel the texture of the food with their fingers and control what they put in their mouths. Continue demonstrating how to “gum” the food so they can learn how to chew by imitating you.