Choking Hazards: Don’t Let Snack Time Become a Danger Zone

Keep snack time safe by being aware of potential choking hazards

As a child care provider, the safety and overall well-being of the children in your care are of the utmost importance. After all, most of your daily activities are likely designed around helping them learn, grow, and develop skills that will ensure a successful future. Even something as seemingly simple as snack time needs to be carefully considered. Develop an awareness of potential choking hazards to keep the children in your care safe as they enjoy their snacks.

Snack safely

Young children are at the greatest risk of choking. Small airways, curiosity, lack of caution, and inexperience with different food sizes, types, and textures make young children especially vulnerable to the dangers of choking.

Keep the children in your care safe by keeping the following in mind during snack time:

Food choices: Offering appropriate snack types can go a long way in preventing choking hazards. The safest options for toddlers are foods that are the correct size and will soften in the mouth. Avoid hard foods like raw carrots, nuts, unpeeled fruits, or hard candy. Anything that is the approximate size of a nickel or larger can also pose a danger, as it can become lodged in the airway; sliced hotdogs, grapes, or popcorn are good examples. Snacks that are slippery, tube-shaped, or easily mold to the airway can also become a threat, like marshmallows, whole bananas, chewy fruit snacks, pickles, or spoonfuls of peanut butter.

Strict supervision: Young children must always be supervised, but particularly so during snack time. Choking can happen quickly and quietly, so monitor children to make sure they are eating carefully, without talking or shoving handfuls of food into their mouths. Encourage children to eat slowly and chew completely before swallowing.

Proper environment: Eating should take place in a quiet area free from noise and distractions, and children should always sit upright. Don’t allow running or playing while eating. Small children are still learning the basics of hand-eye coordination and careful chewing; they need to focus during snack time.

Plan of action: Every adult on-site should be well-versed in choking first-aid and CPR. The procedure for dislodging an item from a choking child’s airway is different from the Heimlich maneuver that is performed on adults, and knowing how to effectively perform abdominal thrusts during choking can save a life.

Common signs of choking include:

  • Inability to breathe
  • Gasping or wheezing
  • Unable to talk, cry, or make noise
  • Panicked appearance
  • Turns blue
  • Grabs at throat or waves arms
  • Becomes limp or loses consciousness

Be prepared to act quickly, as a loss of oxygen to the brain as a result of choking can cause long-term health issues.

Snack time is a fun break from the rest of the day’s activities, however, it’s vital to remain watchful while young children are eating. Develop a plan of action if a choking incident occurs, and make sure the snacks offered are soft, appropriately sized, and a manageable texture to help young children develop safe eating habits in a secure environment.

The Virginia Infant & Toddler Specialist Network helps improve the quality of care for infants and toddlers through extensive resources, services, and education for caregivers. Learn more about how we can help you improve the standard of care.

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