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


Early Childhood Alert No. 5, 2019

Editor's note

Do you remember when you were little and young children were given apple wrapped in muslin for teething to prevent choking from bits breaking off, and apple was grated, stewed, mashed or moulied/ pureed before it was eaten? 

Plunket educated our parents on foods to hold off giving until it was most likely to be safe for our age and on how to prepare foods, such as apple, to reduce the risk of choking. Under-3s especially can choke easily as they have small air and food passages, are learning to move food around in their mouths and are learning how to bite, chew and grind food. And, until a child's back molar teeth come through the risk of choking is also very high.

This week's TVNZ Sunday documentary along with the release of the investigative report into a serious choking incident brings home to us the very real and sad consequences of not taking sufficient precautions to prevent choking and promote children's safety.  It's received wide coverage in the media (7-Sharp, Stuff article "Preschools change food policy", Stuff article "toddler left brain damaged" , NZ Herald choking on apple at childcare and the AM Show TV3 .

Now to better manage, reduce, and eliminate risks to children in ECE of food-related choking. 

Sarah Alexander
Chief Executive, ChildForum ECE National Network


Featured Event

The Managers and Owners Summit 2019 is on Friday 31 May, 10am - 6pm. It will be held in Auckland (approximately 10 minutes from the airport). 

International experts and local speakers will join NZ's ECE service providers (owners and managers) to learn and discuss

  • what the government announced in the Budget,
  • the NZ economy and outlook for parental demand for childcare, business development, etc.,
  • ECE funding questions,
  • managing finances,
  • the key roles of the ECE manager,
  • teacher preparation and improving workforce quality,
  • staff safety and injury prevention,
  • improving outcomes for children, and
  • other topics of high interest.

 > Go to registration information   


Daylight Saving 

When children are used to sleeping and waking at certain times, going to and from ECE at a certain time and eating at certain times, a time shift of one hour can affect their health and behaviour, and therefore also their safety from accidents. 

> Read more on understanding the effects and how you can help children to manage the change


Employment law changes and staff breaks

Next month a number of employment law changes/ reforms will come into effect (e.g. the 90-day trial period and staff rights to rest and meal breaks). So, for ChildForum members we are putting out information and explanations next week on managing the changes and what the changes are likely to mean to you as an employee working with children or managing a service, or as an employer and service provider or business owner. 

To get this information next week you must hold a current membership


What to do when an infant or young child is choking

If you have an infant or toddler choking and you have other children around you too who are seeing what is happening and are likely becoming distressed, how well do you think you will remember and be able to perform the recommended first aid?

Read the article in the link below and importantly practise until you can correctly demonstrate to your partner or colleagues that you know what to do, to increase the chance that you will when facing an emergency highly stressful situation

> What to do when an infant or young child is choking


Links to food guidelines for teachers and parents

ECE lunch-box tips (an article for parents) 

ECE Guidance for teachers and early childhood services on ways to reduce the risk to children of food-related choking  

Ministry of Health food and nutrition guidelines for healthy infants and toddlers 


Easter activity ideas

We've got a great article for you on popular Easter activities and games in early childhood programmes, along with recipes for Easter eggs, hot cross buns, and Easter biscuits to make with children.

The article also raises questions and discusses things you may need to consider, including buying into the commercialisation of Easter, celebrating an important Christian festival, and health matters - including allergy to hen's eggs, dairy products, and chocolate consumption.

> Early childhood Easter information and activities 


When a serious incident involving a child occurs how does the Ministry of Education respond and what role does its Traumatic Incident Team play? 

The investigative report released this week on a near-death incident provides startling insights into the management of serious incidents by the ministry.

> Find the report here 

Contents (22 pages in total) 

1. Report summary
2. The toddler, his family and how the incident affected their lives
3. About the early childhood centre
4. Findings
    4.1. What happened
    4.2. Chronology of events following the incident (time line and details of what happened)
    4.3. WorkSafe’s response
    4.4. The Ministry of Education’s response
    4.5. Caring about the child and family
5. Discussion
    5.1. A breach of trust that parents had in the centre and in the management of licensed ECE
    5. 2. Does the evidence point to a cover-up?
    5.3. Who is ultimately responsible?
6. Recommendations
7. Appendices
    7.1. Food as a choking hazard
    7.2. What to do for a choking infant or young child
    7.3. Links to safety and food guidelines 

In early childhood education, children who are within the known high-risk age range for choking of under-5 years and particularly under-3 years can be given raw apple and other food that can easily be choked on. There is no legal requirement that the texture of the food must be altered through cooking, grating or mashing to reduce risk. Parents appear to be warned insufficiently of this hazard in early childhood education.

This report presents an analysis of one case of choking at a centre and the way it was handled. The case concerns a 22-month-old child who nearly died after choking on a slice of raw apple he was given for afternoon tea. The toddler had a cardiac arrest for 30 minutes and sustained a hypoxic brain injury that has left him severely disabled – he has lost the ability to move and talk.

The Ministry of Education is responsible for licensing and ensuring all services meet regulations that include taking all reasonable precautions to prevent accidents and promoting the good health and safety of children. However, the ministry has been silent and complacent in regard to the incident. The ministry failed to investigate and erred in not interviewing all staff present personally, and did not talk to the parents of the child. It did not undertake a new licensing check of the centre for potential non-compliance. The incident did not trigger any information release on injury prevention to the early childhood sector. The ministry did not subsequently revise licensing criteria to include that high risk food for choking must not be given to infants and young children.

WorkSafe regarded the toddler choking and nearly dying as an unpreventable event and its report may be seen to be lacking in rigour. A part of the responsibility of WorkSafe is to help reduce the risk or recurrence of harm to people. But WorkSafe did not follow through on its intention to do an “industry-wide communication to be distributed outlining issues”.

The first aid treatment given to the toddler at the centre was not questioned and there is some confusion in accounts of what treatment was given. The Ministry of Education has not reviewed what improvements may need to be made in early childhood staff first aid training in light of the incident. 


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