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Meal Pattern Minute: Age for Choking Risk

November 3, 2023

Infants begin to learn to eat solid foods at an early age, as soon as 4-6 months. As infants become toddlers and then preschool-aged, they continue to develop motor skills to chew properly. During these first years of life, there is a concern about choking on certain foods like hard pretzels, whole grapes, and dried fruit. But until what age are children at high risk for choking on these types of solid foods? 

 It only takes a minute to find out! Listen in on this Meal Pattern Minute, as Isabel Ramos-Lebron, MS, RDN, LD, talks about this important question and directs you to a valuable resource. 

 When it comes to feeding children, safety is a top priority. Below are resources to help guide you in serving safe, age-appropriate meals to those in your care. 

  • Reducing the Risk of Choking in Young Children at Mealtimes 
    • Children under the age of 4 are at a high risk of choking while eating. Young children are still learning how to chew food properly, and they often swallow the food whole. Their small airways can become easily blocked. You can help reduce children’s risk of choking when eating by preparing food in certain ways, such as cutting food into small pieces and cooking hard food, like carrots, until it is soft enough to pierce with a fork. Remember, always supervise children during meals and snacks.
    • Download and print this resource to help you learn how to prepare foods so they are easier to chew, avoid choking hazards, and teach good eating habits.
  • Stages of Infant Development and Feeding Skills 
    • Developmental milestones are used as markers to ensure that infants and toddlers are growing in a healthy direction. During early years, a child’s relationship with food is crucial for his or her health and development. Learning the physical stages that relate to feeding is important to understanding this process.
    • With the introduction of complementary foods at around six months, infants learn how to open their mouths in response to food, start learning how to bite soft foods, and how to hold and bring it to their mouths. Every movement from bringing food to mouth, opening mouth, biting, moving tongue to chew food and then swallowing are all learned skills.
  • Mealtimes with Toddlers in the CACFP
    • These Mealtimes With Toddlers in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) resources assist CACFP operators in meeting meal pattern requirements and creating positive mealtime environments for children 1-2 years.
  • Feeding Infants in the CACFP 
    • This guide will help child care providers understand the CACFP meal pattern requirements and includes best practices for feeding babies in a way that supports their growth and development.


Webinars Available 

In the National CACFP Sponsors Association Learning Center, you can find free webinars to help support you in developing infant and toddler meals. 


Here are a couple of recipes that you can modify to reduce the risk of choking. Tips are provided. 


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