Recently, a question came up in our Facebook Group about when it's okay to start feeding a toddler raw apple. I was surprised by how many people commented but I shouldn't have been: I know that we all worry about what's right (and what's not) when it comes to feeding our little ones. Especially when it comes to food safety.
We did Baby-Led Weaning in our house, so I was always pretty comfortable with letting L try new foods, though there are some textures that are tricky—and even, potentially dangerous. Here are a few tips to help prevent toddlers from choking on food, no matter how experienced they are with eating.
1. Make meals be seated affairs. It's so hard to get a toddler to sit still, but making sure they are not running around while eating will go along way to making sure they don't choke.
2. Sit with them during meals. Not every meal may be a family meal, but toddlers still need your attention when they are eating—both so they can learn manners and proper table behavior, and so you are right there if they have trouble eating something.
3. Try a new food at home before sending it to daycare. Because you want to make sure they do okay with it first. (I really just mean this with foods you are worried about, not a new flavor of yogurt or type of pasta!)
4. Consider skipping super crunchy foods until closer to 3. Toddlers like to do everything fast, which means that they don't always chew foods thoroughly. Foods like tortilla chips, store-bought roasted chickpeas, and whole nuts can be tricky for them so either opt for slightly softer options or chop/break them up. (I will never forget the time a piece of tortilla chip got stuck in my daughter's throat when she was 3...and neither will she.)
5. Opt for softer varieties of apples. Choose Gala, Golden Delicious, Macintosh, or Empire apples, which tend to have softer flesh. Cut into tiny chunks, very thin slices, or let them chew on a whole apple, depending on your comfort level.
And as always, follow your gut. If you're worried about something in particular, cut it up super small (like with grapes) or offer small portions (like a tiny taste of thick nut butter). Every toddler is different, and even two kiddos of the same age can do better or worse with the same foods.
Want to brush up on CPR? Check out this pdf from the Red Cross.