When can kids have popcorn? (Best Tips to Avoid Choking)


Popcorn is seriously delicious, but it’s also a serious choking hazards for kids. Here’s exactly what you need to know about when kids can have popcorn safely.

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Kids and Popcorn

Whether you like to pop it in the microwave for a movie night or over a fire on a camping trip, there’s no denying popcorn is a fun and delicious snack. But, unfortunately, it’s also a pretty serious choking hazard for little kids.

The shape and texture of the popped kernels makes it more likely to get caught in your child’s airway. Plus, there’s the reality that it’s very dry and kids might want to cram handfuls of it into their mouths, which increases the risk.

This means that kids shouldn’t eat popcorn until age 4. This is the average age when their chewing and swallowing skills have really matured and they can more safely handle this food.

TIP: We hardly ever tell you to completely avoid foods, but this is NOT a recommendation to be taken lightly. Choking is one of the leading causes of death for toddlers.

Popcorn Alternatives for Toddlers

Fortunately, popcorn is far from the only game in crunchy-snack town. Mini rice cakes, puffed corn cakes, snap pea crisps, softer types of crackers, and puffs are a good option to try for kids who like something crunchy. These are safer to eat, and also a lot easier for little hands to hold than small popcorn kernels.

You could also try things like crispy pea or peanut butter puffs if your kids want something they can snack on piece by piece, similar to the way people eat popcorn.

TIP: Checkout our master list of healthy, store bought snacks for more ideas.

Frequently Asked Questions

When can kids have popcorn?

Popcorn is a choking hazard and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids not have in until they’re at least four years old. By this age, children should be good enough at chewing and swallowing to safely eat popcorn.

Is popcorn healthy for toddlers?

Plain, air-popped popcorn can be a very healthy snack in general. But it is not recommended that toddlers eat it, since it is considered a major choking hazard.

Instead, choose options like mini rice cakes or puffs made specifically for kids.

What should toddlers not eat?

Toddlers can and should eat a wide variety of things. But you still need to be very careful when it comes to things that can be choking hazards.

This includes slippery, round foods like grapes and hot dogs, hard foods like chips and popcorn, and sticky foods like marshmallows or big spoonfuls of nut butter.

Kids should generally avoid these foods until they’re four years old and are better at chewing and swallowing, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Best Tips for Kids and Popcorn

  • Avoid popcorn until kids are over age four as it is a dry food that can be hard to chew and has a higher choking risk.
  • Find our full guide to preventing toddler choking here.
  • Try other safer crunchy foods including peanut puffs, snap pea crisps, softer crackers, peanut puffs (like Bamba) and puffed rice or corn cakes.
  • Find our favorite snacks to buy at the store here.

You may also like my posts explaining when babies can have honey and when babies can have peanut butter.


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