Babies under 12 months
It's a no-brainer, but we'll say it anyway: Avoid all round, firm, sticky foods, such as:
• whole nuts and seeds
• fruit chunks
• chunks of meat or cheese
• raw fruit and vegetables
• whole grapes and dried fruit pieces, including raisins
• hot dogs
• chunks of peanut butter
• hard or sticky candy, including chewing gum
When your baby graduates to finger foods, keep them pea-sized and soft, or at least very easily gummed, like O-shaped cereal. And a special reminder about honey: It contains botulism toxins, which can make young children sick. Hold off until at least after age 1, when their bodies have matured enough to fight it off.
Kids 1 to 4
Choking prevention at this age is all about the prep work. You can offer your toddler or preschooler many of the foods on the to-avoid list above -- as long as they're safely prepared. A few tips:
• Cut fruit and cooked vegetables into small pieces. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends giving kids pieces no wider than a dime.
• Cut round fruits like grapes and cherries into quarters; peanuts should be halved, larger nuts chopped down to size
• Slice hot dogs and raw vegetables lengthwise into sticks (julienne style) instead of round chunks.
• Spread peanut butter thinly across small crackers or bread
• As for popcorn, hard candy and gum, the AAP advises against them until age 4.
Safe eating habits for everyone:
• Always supervise kids when they're eating.
• Ban eating on the run -- when it's chow time, it's time to sit
• Brush up on your first aid skills with a CPR course. Find one at RedCross.org.