As your child grows, he’ll be eager to sample food from your plate – and you’ll be eager to add variety to his diet. But not all foods are safe for your child at every age. Some still pose a choking hazard.
Foods to avoid: 12 to 24 months
Low-fat milk: Most young toddlers need the fat and calories of whole milk for growth and development. Once your child turns 2 (and if he doesn’t have any growth problems), you can start giving him lower-fat milk if you like. (If your child is at risk for obesity or heart disease, however, the doctor may recommend introducing low-fat milk before age 2.)
Choking hazards to watch out for
Large chunks: A chunk of food larger than a pea can get stuck in your child’s throat. Vegetables like carrots, celery, and green beans should be diced, shredded, or cooked and cut up. Cut fruits like grapes, cherry tomatoes, and melon balls into quarters before serving, and shred or cut meats and cheeses into very small pieces.
Small, hard foods: Hard candies, cough drops, nuts, and popcorn are potential choking hazards. Seeds may be too small to choke on but can get stuck in a child’s airway and cause an infection.
Soft, sticky foods: Avoid chewing gum and soft foods like marshmallows and jelly or gummy candies that might get lodged in your child’s throat.
Peanut butter: Be careful not to give your toddler large dollops of peanut butter or other nut butters, which can be difficult to swallow. Instead, spread nut butter thinly on bread or crackers. You might want to try thinning it with some applesauce before spreading it.
More choking prevention
- Avoid letting your child eat in the car since it’s hard to supervise while driving.
- If you’re using a rub-on teething medication, keep a close eye on your toddler as it can numb his throat and interfere with swallowing.
- See a printable checklist on how to reduce your child’s risk of choking.
Foods to avoid: 24 to 36 months
Choking hazards: Even though your child is becoming a more competent eater, there’s still a chance he’ll choke on his food. Continue to avoid the choking hazards listed above, and discourage your child from eating while walking, watching television, or doing anything else that might distract him from his meal.
Foods to avoid: 3 to 5 years
Choking hazards: Your child is a very competent eater now, but you should still be on the lookout for pieces of food that he could choke on. Keep cutting his food into small pieces, especially things like grapes and pieces of hot dog that could completely block his airway if inhaled. Continue to avoid popcorn, whole nuts, hard candies, and chewing gum. And discourage your child from eating when distracted.
The latest on children and allergies
Doctors used to recommend waiting until age 1 or even much later to introduce solid foods that are the most common allergens, especially with kids at risk for allergies. But the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has changed its tune because studies show that these delays probably don’t help keep allergies from developing.
For toddlers, it’s not necessary to introduce new foods gradually, unless your child is allergic to other foods. If your child already has a known food allergy, it’s still a wise idea to wait several days after each new menu item to make sure your child doesn’t react badly to it. And check with his doctor to determine the best strategy for introducing the top allergenic foods like eggs, milk, peanuts, wheat, soy, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish.