Babies and young children are very susceptible to choking, even from everyday objects which seem harmless. Many parents don’t know that their children can’t chew or swallow as well as an adult. It’s important to get the message across about what children can do and what the choking hazards are.

We recommend CAPT’s flyer Put small things where I can’t choke on them written for parents and carers, for essential advice on preventing choking. You can view samples of all CAPT’s leaflets, flyers and booklets and place bulk orders in the online shop.

How many children have a choking accident?

  • Each year around 29,000 under-15s have to go to A&E after choking on something or swallowing non-toxic items other than food. That’s 80 children every day.
  • The risk of choking is much greater for children under 5, especially babies, because they explore their environemtn (especially taste and texture) by putting things in their mouth.
  • Food and drink are the things most likely to cause choking, but coins and other small objects also pose a significant risk.  Babies and toddlers can also swallow these things if they’re kept within reach.

How can we prevent choking accidents?

One of the reasons that choking is a hazard is that babies explore with their mouths as well as their hands and feet. Very young babies learn about the world around them by reaching for things and putting them in their mouths.

They are also physically unable to chew and swallow as well as adults. They don’t yet have a full set of teeth, and need help and supervision when they’re eating.  Babies and young children have a narrow throat. Unless food is chopped up into small pieces, it can get stuck and block the airway.  Our safety advice for parents page discusses choking dangers at different stages of  development.

Whether you’re educating parents or looking to make a nursery, children’s centre or school a safer place for young children, there are lots of things you can do to minimise risks.

There’s always a risk of choking on food and drink. Supervising babies and young children while they’re eating can prevent most choking accidents. There are other measures you can take with their food such as:

  • Cutting food into smaller pieces. Toddlers and babies  can choke on things as small as a grape.
  • Avoiding hard-to-eat foods like peanuts, boiled sweets and ice cubes.

As young children tend to put everything in their mouths, it is essential to keep small objects out of reach.  

  • Coins, buttons, and beads can all choke a young child. They’re all shiny and interesting, too, so they are tempting for children who are looking for things to play with.
  • Be wary of toys with small parts. Small children can pull a toy to pieces and quickly find the bits that will fit in their mouths! Toys designed for children under 36 months should have no small parts, so these are the safest toys for young children.

More information

CAPT’s range of leaflets and booklets will support you in your work with parents and carers by underlining the key safety messages. The leaflets are written with different stages of child development in mind, and are a key support tool when teaching parents about child accident prevention.

Online shop
Put small things where I can’t choke on them
Accidents and child development

We also have a range of quizzes and activities to support you in your work with parents and carers.

This resource is a support tool for practitioners, and is not meant to provide stand-alone safety advice. You can find more detailed advice on preventing accidents in the parents section of the website. If you would like teaching aids for workshops, you can purchase some of our colourful, engaging safety resources in the online shop.

There are other important aspects of accident prevention, such as legislation and the physical, social and financial environment that children and families live in. Find out more about the role of practitioners in preventing childhood injuries and deaths from accidents.

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