Whether you prefer to pop it in the microwave or in a popcorn machine, popcorn is a staple, delicious, and highly versatile snack.
However, if you’ve got kids who are curious whenever you have a bowl of popcorn for movie night, you might be curious to know: When can kids have popcorn?
In this article, I will cover when kids can have popcorn. So, when it comes to feeding your child, you know exactly when it is safe for them to try it.
Keep reading to find out more.
When Can Kids Have Popcorn?
As popcorn can pose a major choking hazard, kids shouldn’t eat popcorn until they’re at least four years old.
This is because it is thought that by this age, children are much more capable of chewing and swallowing their food, even when it comes to more challenging foods such as popcorn.
Popcorn is a very dry food that can be difficult to chew, especially when the popcorn kernels haven’t popped properly. This can lead to partially-popped kernels, as well as hard kernels, that are a nightmare for any adult’s teeth, let alone a child’s teeth that are far less equipped to deal with them.
Bearing this in mind, it is considered too dangerous to give to your child before they have reached the age of four.
The Dangers of Popcorn For Kids
When feeding your child anything new, their safety should be your priority. Choking is one of the leading causes of injury and death in children under the age of four.
Before a child reaches the age of four, they are considered immature chewers. This comes down to the fact that at this age, children don’t have the molars that adults do, and are unable to chew things and grind them down as well as those who are older. This is especially true of unpopped or partially popped kernels that are dry and harder to chew, even for grown adults.
As a result, children younger than four years old are at a higher risk of choking than older children and adults, and therefore shouldn’t be given popcorn.
Once they reach four years old, their teeth are better equipped to handle chewing popcorn, and therefore the risk of them eating it is significantly lower. At this stage, children in theory should be confident enough when it comes to chewing and swallowing, meaning that they are safe to eat popcorn.
That being said, while in theory your child will be ready by the age of four to chew and swallow popcorn, every child is different! Although it is considered safe at this stage, your child might be a little slower when it comes to learning how to chew their food properly – and this is okay!
If you are concerned about giving your child popcorn as young as four years old, then you can wait until you feel confident enough in their eating ability. There are plenty of other snacks available that they can enjoy and that don’t pose the same risk.
If you’re worried about your child eating popcorn, make sure that they don’t ingest large handfuls of popcorn at a time. Encourage them to eat it slowly, as eating the popcorn a few pieces at a time will reduce the risk of your child picking up any unpopped kernels, therefore reducing the risk of them choking.
In addition to this, you could always sort through the popcorn that you give to your child before you give it to them to ensure that any partially-popped kernels or unpopped kernels are discarded before you give them the bowl. This will completely eliminate the risk of them chomping down on a hard kernel and either choking or damaging their teeth.
Can Toddlers Eat Popcorn?
No, it isn’t recommended that toddlers eat popcorn. Children between the ages of one to three are considered toddlers, and eating popcorn at this age is still considered a major choking hazard.
Toddlers can eat a variety of different foods, however, you still need to be incredibly wary when it comes to foods that could be a choking hazard. This includes foods such as popcorn, potato chips, grapes, and sticky foods like marshmallows and large spoonfuls of nut butters.
However, there are plenty of different alternatives to popcorn that you can offer your toddler. For instance, you can offer your toddler mini rice puffs or rice cakes that are specifically marketed for kids.
These alternatives are much safer to eat, and are also a lot easier for their small hands to hold than small popcorn kernels.
Is Popcorn a Healthy Snack For Kids?
Plain, air-popped popcorn can be a healthy snack for kids that are over four years old.
However, how healthy your popcorn is truly comes down to what you season it with and the toppings that you pair it with.
Popcorn becomes much more unhealthy and loses much of its nutritional goodness when you bring additional ingredients into the mix. When it comes to ingredients such as oil, butter, sugar, and salt, popcorn can quickly become a very unhealthy snack that your little one shouldn’t be enjoying on a regular basis.
Although plain, air-popped popcorn can make a good snack, you will want to ensure that these additional toppings aren’t making a regular appearance in your child’s diet.
While life is about balance, you should be ensuring that your child is receiving a healthy, balanced diet. Making sure that they don’t receive too much sugar in their diet is also essential for their dental health.
As popcorn is a choking hazard, kids shouldn’t have popcorn until they’re at least four years old.
When they are older and their molars have developed, the risk of them choking is minimized as they are better equipped to handle partially-popped popcorn that is more difficult to chew.
If you’re still worried about your child eating popcorn, make sure that you remove any unpopped or partially-popped kernels before you give them their popcorn and always encourage them to eat it slowly.