In the interest of helping Jim be people, we decided to go with a thing called baby-led solids (or baby-led weaning). It's not quite as hippie-dippie as it sounds. Basically, it just means skipping the purees stage and going straight to table food. He kind of started this himself when he seized Noah's chicken leg on night, and we've been carrying on with it since.
This is how people use spoons, yes?
Pros of Baby-Led Solids (so far)
Ease. Essentially we just sit Jim at the table with us at dinner and put a little portion on his tray for him to do with as he pleases. No purees, no spoon-feeding, just a little of whatever we're having. This is especially good because it means we can have dinner as a family every night with no hassle. Jim loves being people, like I said, so this is usually the highlight of his day.
Variety. At the advanced age of about six and a half months, Jim has had the opportunity to try quite a large variety of foods. His favorites so far seem to be enchiladas, steamed broccoli, baked sweet potatoes, baked ziti, sauteed green beans with garlic, toast, chicken, baked potatoes, and pulled pork. Foods which he will consume readily but without great relish include bananas, cream of wheat, curry, cauliflower, meatloaf, mac n cheese, pears, carrots, mashed potatoes, and pork chops. The only thing that he doesn't like so far is spicy pasta. I think this wide variety of flavors and textures will help him to not be a picky eater when he's a bit older.
Never let your baby wear long sleeves on enchilada night.
Fun. It's really entertaining to watch him eat. He uses his hands for everything, of course, but he hasn't quite worked out how to get at stuff inside his fists, so he winds up grabbing a big handful of food, eating whatever winds up on the outside of his hands, and then cramming his fist into his mouth wondering why he's not eating whatever is inside. At first he didn't know which end to put in his mouth, either. He'd pick up a green bean, for example, and cram his fist into his mouth with the bean sticking out the other end. He has since figured out that the food end is supposed to go in first. Obviously he isn't perfect at getting stuff in his mouth yet, especially since he's really just exploring flavors and textures right now. Generally about 50% goes into his lap, 20% goes onto the floor (where it is subsequently sniffed and disdained by the cat - we really need to get a dog), 20% goes onto his onesie/face/hands/hair, and about 10% is consumed. Which is okay, seriously - 'food before one is just for fun' and all that.
Cons of Baby-Led Solids (so far)
Scary (but only at first). The first couple of times we let him have food were a little bit nerve-wracking. He's gagged a few times on things, but we've come to realize it's actually a good sign. If he bites off something too big or gets it too far back in his throat, he can kind of just gag it forward until it plops out disgustingly onto his shirt. Still, this was kind of alarming the first couple of times it happened.
Enchiladas and Avocado: The Aftermath.
Messy. And how... Jim doesn't like to wear a bib. If we put a bib on him, more often than not he'll spend the entire time trying to eat and/or yank off the bib. So, we just leave it off and resign ourselves to a lot of laundry and a post-dinner bath every night. Maybe eventually his targeting skills will improve to where he doesn't need a bath after EVERY meal.