Putting things in their mouths is one of the ways that babies and young children explore their worlds. Choking is usually caused by food, toys, and other small objects that easily can get stuck in a child's windpipe. By knowing the dangers you can keep your kids safe and prevent choking. Which Foods Are Choking Hazards? Hard, smooth foods can block the windpipe. Don't give these to kids younger than 4 years old: nuts sunflower seeds watermelon with seeds cherries with pits raw carrots, peas, and celery popcorn hard candy raw apples and pears These soft foods should be cut into small pieces, peeled if they have skin, or avoided: cheese cubes hot dogs and sausages (cut into half-moon or triangle shapes, not rounds) grapes caramels Avoid giving kids spoonfuls of peanut butter and chewing gum. These are sticky in the mouth and can get stuck in the throat. How Can I Help My Child Avoid Choking on Food? Encourage kids to sit when eating and to chew thoroughly. Teach kids to chew and swallow their food before talking or laughing. Be especially careful during parties when bowls of nuts or candies may be easy for kids to reach or may have fallen on the floor. Don't let kids run, play sports, or ride in the car with gum, candy, or lollipops in their mouths. Supervise older children, who might not know they shouldn't give some foods to younger kids. Read all food labels carefully. Which Toys and Other Small Objects Are Choking Hazards? balloons toys with small parts and doll accessories coins safety pins paperclips push pins marbles and small balls nails, bolts, and screws erasers batteries broken crayons jewelry (rings, earrings, pins, etc.) small magnets small caps for bottles, including chocolate syrup, pancake syrup, and soda (kids may try to lick the sweet drops out of the caps, which can get stuck in the airway) How Can I Help My Child Avoid Choking on Toys and Other Objects? Check the floors, under rugs, between cushions, and on counters within your child's reach for small objects or toy parts. Always follow all manufacturers' age recommendations when buying toys. Never buy vending-machine toys for small children; these toys do not have to meet safety regulations and often contain small parts. Make sure small refrigerator magnets are out of your child's reach. Check toys often for loose or broken parts — for example, a stuffed animal's loose eye or a broken plastic hinge. Warn older kids not to leave loose game parts or toys with small pieces in easy reach of younger siblings. Throw out or recycle all batteries safely, especially button batteries (like those used for remote controls and watches). Encourage kids not to put pencils, crayons, or erasers in their mouths when coloring or drawing. Put away all breakable objects and those that are small enough to fit in small mouths. Be Prepared If you're expecting a baby or already have a child, it's a good idea to: Childproof your home. Get down on your hands and knees in every room of your home for a kid's-eye view. Remove or lock away items that could be dangerous. Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the age-appropriate Heimlich maneuver so you are ready in case of emergency. Even with these precautions in place, kids still can get hurt and accidents do happen. But being prepared will help you to act quickly and confidently in the event of an emergency. Back to Articles Related Articles Choking Choking is an emergency - so it's important to recognize the signs of choking and know what to do if happens. Read More First Aid: Choking Choking can be a life-threatening emergency. Follow these steps if your child is choking. Read More Choosing Safe Toys for Toddlers and Preschoolers How can you tell if a small toy poses a choking risk? What types of unsafe toys should you avoid for your baby, toddler, or preschooler? Find out here. Read More Choosing Safe Toys Toys are a fun and important part of any child's development. And there's plenty you can do to make sure all toys are safe. Read More First-Aid Kit A well-stocked first-aid kit, kept in easy reach, is a necessity in every home. Learn where you should keep a kit and what to put in it. Read More CPR Every parent should know how and when to administer CPR. Done correctly, CPR can save a child's life by restoring breathing and circulation until medical personnel arrive. Read More Childproofing and Preventing Household Accidents You might think of babies and toddlers when you hear the words "babyproofing" or "childproofing," but unintentional injury is the leading cause of death in kids 14 and under. Read More Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2021 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.