When Can Kids Eat Popcorn?

  • Author: Sue Dorrens
  • Published: December 19, 2022
  • Time to read: 4 min.

4 years old is the best age to give your child popcorn for the first time. At 4, they’re old enough to thoroughly chew the popcorn so it is not a choking hazard and enjoy the taste and flavor.

Can a 2 Year-Old Have Popcorn?

No, 2-year-olds shouldn’t be given popcorn to eat because it’s a choking hazard. Toddlers are not the nicest of eaters and tend to throw food in their mouths, suck rather than chew, and play with their food more than eat it.

Popcorn should be chewed well before being swallowed, and 2-year-olds don’t have the ability or the patience to do this safely. 2-year-olds are also prone to get distracted by things such as toys and the TV, and this increases the risk of them choking on popcorn.

Why Can’t Toddlers Eat Popcorn?

Have you ever had a piece of popcorn get stuck in your throat or caught in a tooth? As adults, we can deal with this, but toddlers are at risk if this happens because:

  • They don’t have back molars so they can’t chew it properly
  • It’s a choking hazard
  • It can block their airways
  • It’s a dry food that’s difficult for them to swallow

Is Popcorn Healthy For Toddlers?

Popcorn is not a healthy snack for toddlers as it’s a choking hazard. However, popcorn is a healthy choice for children over the age of 4. Popcorn typically contains around 31 calories per cup, which makes it a healthy choice for older children.

Toddlers will find it hard to chew or digest popcorn. Save the popcorn for when they’re older and offer other healthy snacks until then. These can include:

  • Bananas
  • Crackers
  • Cucumber sticks
  • Toast
  • Yogurt

How Do I Know if my Child Aspirated Popcorn?

As popcorn is a choking risk, it’s possible for young children to aspirate it. Signs that they’ve inhaled popcorn include:

  • Wheezing
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Choking
  • Coughing
  • Inability to speak
  • Vocal changes

When a child aspirates popcorn, it can cause inflammation of the lungs, lung damage, and pneumonia. The popcorn usually needs to be removed from the airways via surgery.

Is Popcorn Safe for a Child to Eat?

kids eating popcorn

Yes, as long as your child is at least 4 years old and is a confident eater, popcorn is safe for them to eat. Your child’s molars should have come through by around 33 months of age. At 4 years old, they’ll be used to chewing with their molars and will be able to eat popcorn safely.

Check out some great kids popcorn recipes next.

How Can a Child Safely Eat Popcorn?

Even if your child is 4 years or over, you should supervise them when they’re eating popcorn. Make sure your child is sitting down when they eat. Keep an eye out for unpopped and partially popped kernels and discard them as they can cause kids to choke.

You should also dish out popcorn in small portions so that your child isn’t tempted to put too much into their mouth at once.

Should I be Concerned if my Toddler Eats Popcorn?

You turn your back and your toddler is given a piece of popcorn to eat by your older child. First of all, don’t panic. Keep a close eye on your toddler to make sure they’ve swallowed the popcorn correctly.

Chances are they’ll be fine, but if they show any signs of choking, assist them immediately. When you’re sure that your toddler is fine, tell them that it’s not theirs to eat. Remind your older child not to share their popcorn and remember only to give popcorn when you can supervise the whole time.

How Should You Introduce Popcorn to a Child?

Kids may be wary of popcorn when first given it. After all, they’ve been told they’re not allowed it for years. Make their first time eating popcorn an experience to remember by giving them lots of different varieties to try.

You could also tie their first taste of popcorn in with a family movie night or a trip to the theater. Trying a ‘hulless’ popcorn brand might also be an idea.

What to Do if a Child is Choking on Popcorn?

It can be scary seeing your child choke on popcorn, but you must act fast. As choking is a serious medical emergency, you need to call for an ambulance straight away.

While waiting for an ambulance to arrive, you can do high abdominal thrusts to help a child over the age of 1.

In infants, quick blows to the shoulder blades should be used instead to prevent spleen or liver damage.

Chest compressions and shoulder blade blows should be alternated if your baby continues to choke.

All kids should be allowed to enjoy popcorn. Just make sure you hold off on introducing it until your child is at least 4 years old and can eat it in a safe way.

Next, check out our article showcasing the best popcorn machines for kids.

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