It’s something that we parents never want to think about or imagine. The idea that the food we give our children could hurt them is terrifying, and yet kids 4 years old and younger are at the highest risk of choking. This is because they have not fully mastered chewing and will sometimes try to swallow large pieces of food that their bodies can’t handle. This is a terrifying prospect and the impulse to avoid dangerous foods altogether is an understandable reaction, but experts recommend that while there a few foods that should be avoided, for most, there are precautions you can take so that your young kids can safely eat most foods. After all, we want our little ones to be able to safely and happily explore new foods, textures, and tastes, so they can grow up to be healthy, happy eaters!
Here at The Scramble we want to make feeding your family as easy and stress-free as possible, so we put together two lists: one of foods that it is better to avoid completely for kids age 4 and younger and one of foods that can be served with simple preparation to reduce the risks.
How to Avoid Choking Hazards for Young Kids
Foods to Avoid
The following are foods that children age 4 or younger should avoid completely:
- Chewing gum
- Hard, gooey, or sticky candies such as taffy, lemonheads, gobstoppers, marshmallows, etc.
- Raisins, dried cranberries, and dried fruit of a similar size (unless chopped into even smaller pieces)
Preparing Foods for Safe Eating
The following are foods that may pose a choking risk unless cut up into smaller pieces. Most experts recommend that food is cut into pieces ½-inch or smaller.
- Hot dogs: Slice hot dogs lengthwise and then slice each of those long strips lengthwise again, so that you have four, long quarter strips. Then, especially for really young eaters, age 3 and younger, cut those strips up into pea-sized pieces.
- Nuts and seeds: Finely chop nuts and seeds or use your food processor, so that you can then mix them into dishes such as muffins and cookies, rather than feeding them to your kids on their own.
- Chunks of meat or cheese: Cut these into pieces that are ½-inch or smaller. It can be helpful to cut these into cubes as kids are better able to feel cubed food in their mouth, which reminds them to chew it.
- Whole grapes, cherry/grape tomatoes, and olives: Cut these into pieces that are ½-inch or smaller.
- Chunks or globs of peanut butter, nut butters, or sun butter: If a kid takes a big bite of a nut/seed butter, it can clog up their throat if they don’t give it enough time to dissolve in their mouth, so instead, make sure you serve nut/seed butters spread thinly on bread, crackers, fruits, or vegetables.
- Raw vegetables and hard fruit: Cut these nutritional rock stars into pieces ½-inch or smaller.
Other Feeding Tips
- Choking is often silent or very quiet, so make sure to pay attention as best you can while your kids are eating.
- Make sure your kids are sitting at the table for meals, including snacks, as walking or running while eating can increase the chances of choking.
- When possible, avoid feeding in the car. This is for two reasons: 1) the bouncing can raise the risk of choking and 2) you are driving and therefore unable to pay attention for warning signs of choking.
Do you want more ideas on ways to make feeding your family easier and more pleasant? Check out our article on making dinner time fun and if you’d like ideas and inspiration for easy to make, delicious family dinners, check out the two-week free trial of our online meal planner!