Choking Prevention

Meal and snack time are opportunities educators can use to introduce children to new foods. However, this is also a time in which choking can happen. Choking can be prevented with proper supervision and foods that are appropriate for the child’s age. The new child care licensure rules require agencies to create meal supervision plans to reduce this high-risk behavior.

The authors of Caring for Our Children: National Health and Safety Performance Standards recommend children under four avoiding foods like

  • hot dogs

  • raw carrot rounds

  • whole grapes

  • hard candy, nuts, hard pretzels, chips, popcorn, marshmallows, and

  • chunks of meat that can be swallowed whole.

These foods can block the child’s airway and cause choking.

One way to reduce choking is to ensure foods are chopped, diced, cut or mashed to meet the needs of the age group being served. A good practice is to cut food pieces for infants one-quarter inch or smaller and for toddlers one-half inch or smaller.

For more information, see chapters 1240-04-01-11-.11 and 1240-04-01-.13 of the Tennessee Department of Human Services Child Care Licensure Rules. You can also visit for a more detailed listing of foods to avoid.

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