Children are extremely curious creatures, but the hours spent exploring, eating and playing can pose a few risks, especially to those who are still learning what is edible and what is not. While you should constantly educate your children about choking hazards, there are many threats that you and your child needs to be wary of. Brightly colored pens and their caps can be particularly appealing to children.
You may be familiar with the national food guide, but when considering what to give a child under four, there are actually two different groups of food; the kind that they can safely chew and swallow, and the kind that they cannot.
Properly Prepare Food
That is not to say that feeding your child should be an arduous and tiresome process. Rather, all you need to do is make little modifications to either soften or smoothen the food that you are giving them. For example, when feeding a child carrots, do not give it to them in raw form. You are wise to either puree or mince it into slices that can easily melt in their mouth. There are other unexpected culprits; apples have actually caused death because of their surprising rigidity, but there are many healthy and broken down forms that it can take. Here are a few pieces of advice to heed when preparing basic foods for your children:
- Take the pits out. Pits in fruits like peaches or apricots may appeal to a child’s penchant to chew, but they are sharp and can block the vital airways.
- Do not serve foods whole if they are longer than they are wide. This goes for everything from grapes to hot dogs. The best option would be to break down the foods so that they are either cubic or wider than usual.
- Do not serve peanut butter in large chunks. While it is a very protein-rich food that is easy to use in many recipes, its thickness can cause a child to choke very easily. Make sure that it is spread thinly enough so that there are no large segments.
If you can, make this process an educational experience. You want your child to learn so as to avoid any issues when you may not be in their presence.
Avoid Certain Foods
While many foods can be easily prepared for safe, choke-free eating, there are some foods that should be outright avoided. The best way to judge if a food is good for eating or not is to try it yourself, and take note of its potential dangers. Popcorn is a good example. Not only do the popped kernels have certain fibers that can get stuck in the throat, but a child can really hurt themselves if they bite on an unpopped kernel.
Similarly, avoid hard candies and cough drops, as they are difficult to swallow whole and if cracked can stab the back of the mouth. Always keep in mind that the mouth of a child is much smaller than yours, so a food of average size will seem big to them. You should also avoid foods that dry very easily. A child may not be able to communicate that their mouth is drying because of the food’s saltiness, for example. Most importantly (and most obviously, for that matter), avoid gum. Children will have not developed their teeth well enough and any chronic chewing can pose problems.
While it may be quite difficult to do, parents need to step back and take a good hard look at their basic habits. Are you, for example, eating with your mouth open? Do you practice etiquette that some other families may deem unacceptable? As the supervisor of your child, you must be prepared when they turn to you to find answers on how to act in certain situations. To supervise a child effectively, take great pains in monitoring how they chew and how they break their food down. There is nothing wrong with being a little over-attentive, too; it may very well save their life.