What kids should avoid?
Top 10 Food Choking Hazards for Babies & Toddlers
Children younger than 4 years old are at the highest risk of choking, since they haven’t quite mastered chewing. But, do you know which foods to avoid feeding your toddler or how to identify unsafe foods for babies? Pediatrician Catie Sandberg, DO, UnityPoint Health, identifies 10 foods not to give your little one and explains why they are unsafe for your child.
Foods to Avoid Feeding Babies
“Typically, infants may be ready for some foods, such as purees, which require no true chewing, once they have good head control and can sit well while assisted,” Dr. Sandberg says.
An infant is developmentally able to suck and swallow and is equipped with involuntary refluxes, including gagging and coughing, to help protect against breathing food into his/her airways. Dr. Sandberg says children do have to learn how to chew effectively. This might make parents and guardians hesitant about taking the step toward foods with more substance, like table foods. Dr. Sandberg says the concern is understandable.
“Children are around one-and-a-half years old before they have their first set of molars, and they don’t have a full set of childhood teeth, including the final set of childhood molars, until age 3. Although 3-year-old children have both sets of molars, they are still learning to chew and grind with their molars effectively,” Dr. Sandberg says.
10 Choking Hazards for Babies and Toddlers
Dr. Sandberg says you should be extremely cautious with the following 10 foods, especially with children under the age of four.
- Hot dogs. This cookout staple is a choking hazard due to the tube shape and compressibility. If you do choose to give hot dogs to children, it is safest to cut them length wise and in small pieces.
- Larger chunks of meat/cheese. Make sure meats and cheese are cut into small, manageable bites for babies and toddlers. Dr. Sandberg recommends avoiding cutting food into strips because children can easily bite off a piece, which is too large for them to handle.
- Whole grapes. This fruit is fine for babies, as long as it is prepared correctly. Grapes should be cut length wise and quartered for all young children. Grape skin can lead to choking when it separates from the grape. For babies, it is best to use cup up grapes without skin.
- Hard candies. Many candies, including hard candies, can cause issues because they may be the size of the airway.
- Taffy. This sweet treat is dangerous because it can mold and conform to block a child’s airway.
- Gum. Just like taffy, gum can mold just right to block a child’s airway, making it a significant choking hazard.
- Nuts & seeds. While healthy, these items are a choking hazard for young children largely due to children’s inability to grind food. Remember, children under four may not have all their childhood molars and are still learning this skill.
- Popcorn. Again, this is a risk due to a young child’s inability to chew well. If you’re wondering when babies can eat popcorn, it’s best to hold off until around the age of four.
- Peanut butter. Globs of peanut butter can be a choking hazard in the same way as gum, taffy and hard candies. It can conform to a child’s airway.
- Raw vegetables. When a whole vegetable is given, it is easy for a piece to break off, perhaps cut by the child’s incisors (front teeth). That’s when the large pieces of hard vegetable become a choking hazard.
Most children like to wiggle, but Dr. Sandberg says these 10 foods can become even more dangerous if you child isn’t sitting still.
“Be sure that children are not being active while eating. Risk increases significantly in children who aren’t focused fully on their food. High activity levels while eating, such as walking, running or talking, quickly increases risk,” Dr. Sandberg says
What is Baby-Led Weaning?
“Baby-led weaning is the process of introducing foods to your baby, which he/she can self-feed and generally avoiding spoon feeding with purees,” Dr. Sandberg says.
When starting with the appropriate baby-led weaning food, the practice can be safe and effective. However, Dr. Sandberg says it becomes a concern when infants are given foods that are not cut properly, leading to the potential for choking.
When to Start Baby-Led Weaning?
“Studies that compare baby-led weaning and spoon-feeding show there is no added risk for parents who opt for baby-led weaning, as long as parent understand choking hazards and wait until the 6 month mark to begin solid foods.” Dr. Sandberg says
Baby-Led Weaning Starter Foods
If you’re wondering how to start baby-led weaning, Dr. Sandberg suggests well-cooked vegetables, soft fruits, even meats cut into small pieces. She says it’s important to keep a close eye on all babies during baby-led weaning. Dr. Sandberg says before starting any sort of food, it’s best to talk to your child’s doctor.
Keeping children safe while out and about
All children can be vulnerable sometimes, and as a parent it is only natural to worry about their safety. If you are worried, you can help to protect your young children and teens with these common-sense tips.
Protecting young children
Statistics show that crime against young children by strangers is rare. Even so, these seven tips can help protect your child:
- tell your child to avoid talking to people they don’t know when you’re not around
- make sure your child knows never to walk away with strangers
- make sure your child understands that they should always tell you if a stranger approaches, and never to keep this secret
- if your child is travelling alone, tell them to sit near other families on the train or bus
- if your child has to use a lift – tell them only to use lifts with friends, and not to feel worried about getting out if they are uncomfortable about someone else being in there
- if your child gets lost, they should ask for help from a police officer, another grown-up with children or someone working at a nearby shop
- have your children learn their address and telephone number by heart
While you are out with your children
Sometimes, young children can still be vulnerable even if you are with them. Following these simple precautions should give you peace of mind:
- try to keep your children within your sight or another adult’s whom you trust
- use reins for your toddler — these will keep your child nearby even if you get distracted
- when out and about visiting places, always arrange a meeting point for you and your child, in case either of you get lost
- make sure you all travel together in the same train carriage, or have seats close together on a bus or coach
- always go with your child into public toilets
- remind your child never to talk to strangers, even if you are nearby
Keeping teenagers safe
More crimes are committed against teenagers than any other age group, but here are some things they can do to keep safe on the streets:
- stay alert, and keep electronic devices turned down or off , so they can hear what’s going on around them
- stick to busy, well-lit roads, and avoid short cuts through alleyways
- if your child thinks someone is following them, they should cross the road or go to a place with lots of people around, like a bus stop or shop
- your child could carry a whistle or shrill alarm around their neck or on a key chain to warn off suspicious strangers
- when travelling by bus, your child should try to use bus stops on busy roads
- if someone tries to take something from your child, tell them never to fight
- tell them to keep mobile phones and other valuables out of sight, and to turn off their mobile phone ringer to avoid attracting attention
- don’t let your child carry weapons because they are more likely to be used against them, and it’s illegal
- encourage your child to speak up if they are being bullied or feel they might be in danger
- Knife crime
- Gang crime
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- Community safety
- Keeping children safe while out and about
- Keeping your child safe from abuse
- Keeping your home secure
- Neighbourhood watch
- Protect your identity
- Protecting children and vulnerable adults
- Protecting older children who are leaving home
- Protecting your belongings
- Protecting your mobile phone
- Protecting yourself
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- Town centre safety