Safety Tips for Feeding Your Kids

When feeding young children, it's important to consider the size, shape and texture of what they'll be eating, as well as the setting in which you're feeding them. If a food is small or slippery, it may go down the throat without being fully chewed and block the child's windpipe. To make foods and feeding occasions as safe as possible, kids should be seated and supervised and also follow these safety tips.

Be Selective

Small, rounded foods, especially if they are relatively hard or smooth, and chunks of food can be more difficult for young children to eat and they may swallow them whole. Foods like this should generally be cut into smaller pieces (under 1/2-inch) before being given to children under 4 years of age.  Some foods, such as nuts and round hard candy, should be avoided altogether until children have the ability to eat them safely.

To help ensure safety for your kids while they eat, keep in mind this list of potentially troublesome foods or forms of some otherwise appropriate foods:

  • Hard, rounded  candies or cough drops
  • Nuts, seeds and peanuts
  • Raw fruits, such as whole grapes, chunks of apple or cherries with pits  
  • Raw vegetables, such as carrots, beans, peas, cherry tomatoes
  • Hot dogs or sausages, either whole or cut into coin-shapes   
  • Marshmallows
  • Gumballs
  • Fish with bones
  • Dried fruits and vegetables, such as raisins or apricots
  • Popcorn
  • Snack chips that are hard with a circular shape
  • Chunks of meat, cheese or other foods

Cut Before You Serve

Don't give small children difficult-to-eat foods in whole form. When children get old enough to chew hot dogs, grapes, carrots and other difficult foods, cut them into small, strip-shaped pieces before serving. Also, encourage your child to chew thoroughly.

Keep a Watchful Eye

Children under 4 should always be seated and supervised while being fed.  At this age, children do not have the ability to judge how to eat safely.  It typically is not safe to run, jump or otherwise move around while eating. ,

Follow the “No-Eating-in-the-Car” Rule

If your child chokes while you are driving, you may not be able to respond quickly or appropriately so it’s a good idea to avoid eating in the car altogether.

Observe Your Child’s Eating Abilities

Every child is unique. One may be much better than another when it comes to eating some of the foods listed above. So watch your children carefully as they grow, and use your good judgment about what to feed them.

Be Prepared

One of the most important food safety tips for kids, should your child choke on a food, is to be ready for quick action. Always call 9-1-1.  You may consider taking a course in basic first aid and rescue techniques that includes information on choking incidents and how to respond to them. Your local American Red Cross chapter offers these types of classes, as do some employers' insurance programs. Also, your pediatrician should have more guidance on potential choking hazards and tips on preventing these hazards.

Check these sites for more information on choking and children:

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement: http://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/New-AAP-Policy-on-Choking-Prevention.aspx
  • The Safe Kids Worldwide organization also offers useful information about choking and young children: http://www.safekids.org/our-work/research/fact-sheets/choking-and-suffocation-prevention-fact-sheet.html
  • The National Institutes of Health (NIH) provides excellent information on choking and young children, including step-by-step instructions on how to resuscitate a child who is choking. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000051.htm