Preventing choking is an important focus for parents of any baby or toddler, but it can be extra tricky if there are older siblings. Montessori families and homeschoolers have to deal with the problem of lots of small objects that are a natural part of Montessori education but are dangerous for babies and toddlers. Following are some rules for preventing choking in babies and toddlers in general and then some specific tips for families who have a baby or toddler along with older children.
General Rules for Preventing Choking in Babies and Toddlers
For choking prevention in general, it’s important to keep these rules in mind:
- Supervise babies and toddlers whenever they’re eating or drinking. Children typically can’t make any noise to let you know they’re choking. Make sure you or anyone babysitting knows the Heimlich maneuver and CPR in case your baby or toddler starts choking.
- Only allow babies and toddlers to eat while seated. Don’t let them eat while in their car seat because the recline may encourage choking. Also, you can’t properly supervise your child when he or she is eating in a car seat.
- You can avoid many choking problems by cutting food very small or mashing it so it won’t lodge in your child’s throat. If the food is smaller than the windpipe, it won’t be able to get stuck.
- Wait until your child is older before you allow him or her to eat hard candy, peanuts or hot dogs. With foods like grapes, blueberries, strawberries, and small tomatoes, it’s best to cut them up into small pieces so they can’t get lodged in your toddler’s windpipe. Be careful with sticky foods as well, which can be difficult for young children to swallow.
- Find one of the plastic tubes that indicate the size of the throat. They’re sold with infant safety items. If you can’t find one, have a toilet paper tube handy. Make sure all parts are larger than 1¾ inches (the width of a toilet paper tube). If something will easily fit into a toilet paper tube, it’s small enough for a child to choke on.
- If your baby or toddler is mobile, place baby gates to keep him or her out of some rooms or away from other dangers such as the kitchen trash can.
- Keep all loose batteries boxed up and in a locked drawer or on a shelf that is out of reach.
- Small magnets are a serious choking danger similar to loose batteries.
- Don’t give latex balloons to babies and toddlers.
- Be careful there aren’t coins, marbles, or small stones where your baby or toddler could find them.
- Watch out for craft supplies like beads, buttons, and push pins that could be a choking hazard. For children who are ready to work with Montessori punching activities, I recommend the Montessori Services puncher for safety reasons.
- Use common sense about which activities to introduce to your baby or toddler. Those of us who are kid bloggers often have a warning on our blogs saying something like the warning on my blog’s sidebar: “All activities on this blog are intended to be executed under adult supervision. You must be the judge of what is age appropriate for your child and/or the children in your care.”
- If you ever choose to allow a baby or toddler who still mouths objects to work with a material that has small objects, such as water beads, remember that you need to supervise your baby or toddler EVERY. SINGLE. SECOND. Don’t turn your back or do anything but give your baby or toddler your full attention, with or without older children present. Put the materials away as soon as your baby or toddler is finished or tries to put the small objects in his or her mouth.
Preventing Chocking in Babies and Toddlers with Older Siblings
- For babies, you can use barriers to make an entire room or large portion of a room safe and available, allowing freedom of movement for your baby while keeping your baby away from your older children’s toys and materials. How We Montessori shows their Montessori baby-toddler room, which allows freedom of movement while the older sibling’s room is closed.
I used the same full-length mirror as one of the barriers for each of my children when they were babies. (See “My Top 3 Natural Parenting Principles.” and “How to Set Up Your Home for an Infant by Using Montessori Principles”)
- Teach your older children to put away their work and toys as soon as they finish using them (a Montessori principle that’s helpful in a number of ways).
Enlist your older children’s help as protectors of your baby or toddler. In multi-age Montessori classrooms, older children are role models and teachers for the younger children. That same concept works well at home. My son, Will, is 5 years older than my daughter, Christina. From the beginning, Will took on the role of protector and was a great help in keeping his toys and small objects put away and safely out of his sister’s reach. My husband and I made sure we showed Will respect and thanked him for his help in caring for his sister’s safety. (Note: If intense sibling rivalry makes it difficult for your older child to take on the role of protector, you might find some of the tips helpful in my post on the “Top 5 Ways to Reduce Sibling Rivalry.”)
- Many families find that it works well to place their baby’s or toddler’s activity trays or baskets on low shelves with their older children’s activities on higher shelves that can’t be reached by the baby or toddler.
- Many families find that it works well to keep small objects in see-through containers that can be opened by older children but not by babies or toddlers. This allows the baby or toddler to have access to small objects without being in danger of choking. (Note: this only works if you can always trust your older children to replace the cover securely on the container.) You can see an example of these types of materials and toddler Montessori shelves at Racheous. Update: Racheous also has a post on “Keeping Your Toddler Busy When Working with Your Preschooler.”
- Many families find that it works well to bring out special activities for the older children during the baby’s or toddler’s naptime.
- Many families find that it works well to direct a baby or toddler to work of his or her own while an older sibling does separate work nearby.
- Many families find that it works well to have separate shelves for the older children and separate shelves for the baby or toddler. The older children are allowed to use their materials and the materials on the younger child’s shelf. The younger child can use anything on his or her shelf and items he or she is invited to use with the older child or has been shown how to use from the older child’s shelf. This can be a good way to introduce a toddler to rules and to train the toddler to take out one thing at a time, learn the traditional Montessori rule of being presented work, and learn to be invited to work with another child rather than interfering with someone’s work. See What Did We Do All Day? to learn more about what worked for their family.
- What works well for your unique family often depends on the personality and age of each of your children.
For LOTS of Montessori baby articles, see my Montessori Baby Resources post.
What tips have worked best for you in preventing choking in a baby or toddler with older siblings?
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting with the theme Staying Safe. This month our participants have shared stories and tips about protecting our families. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be updated by afternoon September 10 with all the carnival links.)
- Stranger Danger — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares her approach to the topic of “strangers” and why she prefers to avoid that word, instead opting to help her 4-year-old understand what sorts of contact with adults is appropriate and whom to seek help from should she ever need it.
- We are the FDA — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger makes the case that when it comes to food and drugs, parents are necessarily both their kids’ best proponent of healthy eating and defense against unsafe products.
- You Can’t Baby Proof Mother Nature — Nicole Lauren at Mama Mermaid shares how she tackles the challenges of safety when teaching her toddler about the outdoors.
- Bike Safety With Kids — Christy at Eco Journey In the Burbs shares her tips for safe cycling with children in a guest post at Natural Parents Network.
- Spidey Sense — Maud at Awfully Chipper used a playground visit gone awry to teach her children about trusting their instincts.
- Water — sustainablemum explains how she has used her love of canoeing to enable her children to be confident around water
- Safety without baby proofing — Hannabert at Hannahandhorn talks about teaching safety rather than babyproofing.
- Coming of Age: The Safety Net of Secure Attatchment — Gentle Mama Moon reflects on her own experiences of entering young adulthood and in particular the risks that many young women/girls take as turbulent hormones coincide with insecurities and for some, loneliness — a deep longing for connection.
- Mistakes You Might Be Makings With Car Seats — Car seats are complex, and Brittany at The Pistachio Project shares ways we might be using them improperly.
- Could your child strangle on your window blinds? — One U.S. child a month strangles to death on a window blind cord — and it’s not always the obvious cords that are the danger. Lauren at Hobo Mama sends a strong message to get rid of corded blinds, and take steps to keep your children safe.
- Tips to Help Parents Quit Smoking (and Stay Quit) — Creating a safe, smoke-free home not only gives children a healthier childhood, it also helps them make healthier choices later in life, too. Dionna at Code Name: Mama (an ex-smoker herself) offers tips to parents struggling to quit smoking, and she’ll be happy to be a source of support for anyone who needs it.
- Gradually Expanding Range — Becca at The Earthling’s Handbook explains how she is increasing the area in which her child can walk alone, a little bit at a time.
- Safety Sense and Self Confidence — Do you hover? Are you overprotective? Erica at ChildOrganics discusses trusting your child’s safety sense and how this helps your child develop self-confidence.
- Staying Safe With Food Allergies and Intolerances — Kellie at Our Mindful Life is sharing how she taught her son about staying safe when it came to his food allergies.
- Don’t Touch That Baby! — Crunchy Con Mom offers her 3 best tips for preventing unwanted touching of your baby.
- Playground Wrangling: Handling Two Toddlers Heading in Opposite Directions — Megan at the Boho Mama shares her experience with keeping two busy toddlers safe on the playground (AKA, the Zone of Death) while also keeping her sanity.
- Letting Go of “No” and Taking Chances — Mommy at Playing for Peace tries to accept the bumps, bruises and tears that come from letting her active and curious one-year-old explore the world and take chances.
- Preventing Choking in Babies and Toddlers with Older Siblings — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now gives tips on preventing choking in babies and toddlers along with Montessori-inspired tips for preventing choking in babies and toddlers who have older siblings working with small objects.
- Keeping Our Children Safe: A Community and National Priority — September has many days and weeks dedicated to issues of safety; however, none stir the emotions as does Patriot Day which honors those slain the terrorist attacks. Along with honoring the victims, safety officals want parents to be ready in the event of another disaster whether caused by terrorists or nature. Here are their top tips from Mary at Mary-andering Creatively.
- A Complete Family: Merging Pets and Offspring — Ana at Panda & Ananaso shares the ground rules that she laid out for herself, her big brown dog, and later her baby to ensure a happy, safe, and complete family.
- Be Brave — Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes talks about helping her kids learn to be brave so that they can stay safe, even when she’s not around.
- Catchy Phrasing — Momma Jorje just shares one quick tip for helping kids learn about safety. She assures there are examples provided.
- Know Your Kid — Alisha at Cinnamon&Sassfras refutes the idea that children are unpredictable.
- Surprising car seat myths — Choosing a car seat is a big, important decision with lots of variables. But there are some ways to simplify it and make sure you have made the safest choice for your family. Megan at Mama Seeds shares how, plus some surprising myths that changed her approach to car seats completely!
- I Never Tell My Kids To Be Careful — Kim is Raising Babes, Naturally, by staying present and avoiding the phrase “be careful!”
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