ChildForum Office of Pre-Primary Education

ChildForum Office of Pre-Primary EducationLead advisor on early childhood care and education 
National membership 

Publisher of the New Zealand-International Research in Early Childhood Journal


Guide to reducing the Risk of children Choking on Food

© ChildForum


Helping adults 2Healthy foods such as apples can be dangerous for young children.

A 10 month old died after choking on a piece of apple at her UK nursery in 2006. A 14 month old attending an NZ early childhood education centre in 2008 died also after he choked on apple.   

Safety and prevention of harm to a child should always be the priority of early childhood services and teachers. However, there is no legal requirement preventing early childhood services from giving children foods that are known to be high risk. Since there is a lack of regulation in this area, it is important that you continue reading and follow the advice given below,


Reduce the Possibility of Choking

Until at least 3 years and up to 5 years when children have their full set of molar teeth, do not provide foods that health professionals have identified to be a high choking risk. 

High risk foods include: peanuts, raw apple, raw carrot,  sausages, grapes and popcorn. 

Do not give small pieces of hard food. The risk of coking can be reduced by cooking, mashing, and grating. For example give a child stewed apple instead of a slice of raw apple. Taking the skin off the apple may help to make it safer but it remains a choking hazard since small hard bits may get stuck in a child's throat. 

A child should always have an adult sitting with them while eating. A child who is eating should not be left to move out of their seat or run around, and should be encouraged to be focused on eating with minimal distraction.

The adult should have First Aid training on what to do if the child chokes and be capable of applying the recommended first aid calmly and correctly under emergency conditions.

Young children have small air and food passages, and are learning to move food around in their mouths and and how to bite, chew and grind food. They do not have all their teeth - second molars are needed to grind food successfully before swallowing. 

Talk with parents about choking risks. Ask parents what foods and in what sized portions their child has at home and can safely manage 

Read more about food safety issues 


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