same like you, i let my dotter use her hands as much as she practices using the spoon. i dont't believe that it will cultivate bad habits because toddlers need to touch and feel to learn. It can also help with their fine motor skills.
As long as hands are CLEAN before and after the handling of food, eating with hands will not pose any problems.
Plus, Muslims eat with their hands. Do THOSE MOTHERS then think Muslims have bad eating habits??? Geez.