Safe Summer: 7 Best Tips For Food Safety With Kids


July 9, 2023

Summer parties are in full swing which means it’s also time to talk about safe summer eating for little ones who are still at higher risks for food poisoning and choking. While these things aren’t fun to think about, they can happen and it’s best to be prepared and try to reduce the risks of choking on summer party food or food poisoning as much as possible. 

safe summer food watermelon by pool

Why Is Food Safety For Safe Summer Parties So Important?

Summer is when childhood memories are made, and everyone loves all the fun events and activities of summer. But with those special activities come a lot of distracted adults, and often children are being exposed to new foods and experiences (especially around water) that they may not be used to and may not be safe for them. Distracted adults, unsafe food shapes (think whole grapes, cubes of cheese, and whole hot dogs), and eating on the go can all increase the risks of choking in children. This is why thinking about food safety in the summer is especially important to prevent any unintended accidents.

Best Food Safety Tips For Safe Summer Parties With Kids

Children under five are at an elevated risk for choking according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, and unfortunately many of the most common foods that young children choke on are also the same foods that are found and served at summer barbecques, events, and birthday parties. This is why safe summer food safety awareness is SO important for preventing any unintended choking episodes from occuring.

Practice Eating High Choking Risk Foods At Home

You don’t want the first time your child eats a whole grape, hot dog, or a cube of cheese to be at a backyard barbeque or when a well-intentioned family member offers them something that is not cut up in a safe shape for the age of your child. Trust me these things absolutely happen. In fact the first time my daughter popped a whole grape in her mouth was at our kitchen counter when I was washing fruit and she reached up and quickly grabbed a whole grape.

If your child is at an appropriate age (this will depend on the child but usually somewhere between 2-3) practicing coaching your child to take small bites of these higher risk foods can help your child know how to safely eat them if they encounter them at a summer party or grandmas house.

Before practicing eating higher risk foods it’s important that your child has a good grasp on chewing difficult textures, spitting food out, and can follow some simple instruction. If when you try coaching your child is not following direction or playing then it’s time to stop and try again when your child is a little older. 

child eating cheese plate

Make Sure Children Are Always Sitting And Supervised While Eating 

We have a zero tolerance policy for eating while “on-the-go” in our house. This is because the risk for choking increases when a child is walking/running/playing while eating. It also makes it much more difficult for an adult to monitor a child who is eating on the go. Talking to your children about sitting down while eaitng, and making it a rule in your home can help reduce the chances of a child eating on-the-go. At summer parties it’s important to make sure that when the food is being served that your child is seated and being supervised while eating. They can get up to play if they want, but the food stays at the table. 

Bring A Travel High Chair For Babies and Young Toddlers

For brand new eaters I like to pack a little lunch with pre-cut up food that I know is safe for where they are at in their eating journey. You don’t need to do this by any means, but I do think it can take some of the stress out of feeding new eaters in new environments. I also highly recommend investing in a travel high chair that can keep them strapped in and contained while eating. This way you know they are setup for eating in a safe setting. I love this and this travel highchair.

Avoid Introducing New Foods At Parties

Sometimes young children may not have been exposed to all the major allergens, and then a new food is served at a party or out on-the-go and an allergic event can occur. This is why I always recommend not introducing new foods to young children outside of the safety of your home. It also is a good idea to carry some childrens zyrtec or benedryl for the off chance that an allergic event does occur. Always speak with your pediatrician first as they may have specific instructions for how to prepare in the case of an allergic event with your child.

Serve Food Out Of The Reach Of Small Children

Toddlers are naturally curious and if there is a food table within their reach they are probably going to be trying to grab anything they can reach. This is why it is ideal for safe summer food safety to serve food outside of the reach of curious toddlers.

safe summer barbecue food

Follow The Two Hour Rule For Safe Summer Food Safety

For perishable foods, they should be consumed within two hours (one hour if exposed to temps above 90 degrees) or refrigerated. This will help reduce the risk of food going bad and potentially causing food posioning. No one wants to get food posioning at a summer event, so if you are the one hosting consider setting a timer for when the perishable food needs to be refrigerated to remind yourself. If you are not hosting you could set your own timer for two hours when the food is served, or when in doubt avoid eating perishable foods that you think may have been left out for too long. 

Know What The Highest Choking Risk Foods Are For Children

Having a general awareness of the highest choking risk foods for children can also help you quickly assess what risks may be present at summer parties. Here is a simple list that is great to print out and keep at home or share with any family/friends who may be feeding your children. Being able to quickly assess a new environment for risk factors is one of the best ways for being prepared to prevent accidents from happening. 

Just like being aware of summer water safety, being aware of safe summer food safety is one way to help ensure that your summer fun activities are just that FUN. 

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Meet Meg

Mom of two, and registered dietitian specializing in prenatal, postpartum, and infant wellness. My passion for supporting moms and babies began more than a decade ago, but nothing made me more committed to helping moms and babies thrive than going through my own pregnancy and postpartum journey.

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