People of all ages love popcorn, considering it a staple at every party and movie night.
But popcorn can be dangerous for young children. It’s actually a major choking hazard and not a snack you should hand out to small kids. So the next time you’re munching on popcorn and your mini-me gives their best pleading face, don’t give in.
In this post, we go over the appropriate age for children to start eating popcorn — plus share more safety tips like helping kids get rid of stuck kernels in their braces and gums.
When Can Toddlers Eat Popcorn?
Popcorn is quite small and also can be scratchy or difficult to chew. It’s not a snack that new eaters or immature chewers should be eating. Because of this, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that young children avoid consuming popcorn until they’re at least 4 years old.
While many 2-year-olds may be eating a lot of different food, they still don’t have a lot of chewing experience.
Most food given to young kids is soft and easy to swallow. These kiddos may actually not fully chew small pieces of popcorn and try to swallow before the snack is completely mashed. They might also not know any better and put in unpopped kernels inside their mouth, which can block their airways.
That’s why popcorn is a serious choking hazard and why you should wait till they’re a little older. By the time they’re four, they should know how to chew properly and have developed molars strong enough to chew popcorn.
Even if you think a single popcorn won’t harm your kid, it’s best to take their pediatrician’s advice and give them popcorn when they’re four or older.
Is Popcorn a Healthy Snack for Older Children?
Once children are older and become “professional” chewers, popcorn may quickly become their favorite snack. Imagine getting to eat popcorn for the first time! That crunchy, buttery, salty taste would surely be irresistible to any new popcorn eater! But is popcorn healthy for kids?
When made a certain way, it can be. Air-popped popcorn is popped without oil, so it’s low in calories and fats. On the other hand, popcorn with lots of salty seasoning or greasy toppings may not be the best choice if you're concerned about your kid’s health.
But small handfuls of popcorn are a great snack, even if it has some seasoning added. Just serve it in moderation and you won’t have to worry about it not being super healthy.
If your kids are still too young for popcorn, consider giving them rice cakes, peanut butter puffs, or some tasty crackers. These snacks are a little more kid-friendly but still have a popcorn-like vibe!
Can Kids Be Allergic to Popcorn?
Popcorn is made from corn and corn isn't typically a high-allergy food. However, it's still possible for kids to be allergic to popcorn.
Since corn is a common ingredient, you’ll likely know if your child has a corn allergy long before they’re old enough for popcorn. However, you may still want to check with your doctor or allergist if you’re worried about your kid eating popcorn for the first time.
Your doctor will likely discuss the signs of an allergy and what to look for. Common allergy symptoms include:
- Skin rashes
- Pale skin
Hopefully, your child experiences none of these and can freely eat popcorn!
What Other Snacks to Avoid for Young Children
Popcorn isn’t the only food that can pose a choking risk for young kids.
Here are a few other foods you may want to avoid until your kids are over the age of four and turn into more experienced chewers:
- Hard candies
- Hot dogs
- Chewing gum
- Whole grapes
Always remember when you prepare snacks for little kids that they need bite-sized pieces of food and smaller portions. These aren't only easier to chew and process. They’re also easier to digest.
Things like hot dogs and grapes are actually okay once they’re cut into small pieces. However, gum, hard candies, and sticky marshmallows should really be avoided until those big kid molars are fully developed!
Popcorn Is Worth the Wait
Once they’re old enough, that first bite will be life-changing — the crunch and flavor etched into their memory forever. You can also let them join in on the fun of making popcorn with the Popsmith Popper (under supervision, of course)!