How Small Should Table Food Be Cut Up for Toddlers?

The thought of your child choking on food is terrifying. These thoughts can make dinner preparation stressful -- you don't want to leave anything to chance. Babies start out eating soft malleable foods and progress throughout the toddler years in their ability to eat table food. Prepare table food so that it is age -- and stage -- appropriate for your child.

Small Pieces

For infants through 12 months old, cut their food into no more than 1/4-inch sized pieces. As a general rule, your toddler aged 1 to 2 years old can now handle table food cut into no more than 1/2-inch pieces. Toddlers older than 2 years can handle bite sizes. Serve table food in bite size pieces until your child can cut her food on her own.

Modify Texture and Shape

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Some foods need further preparation. You can microwave carrots, apples or other difficult to chew items to soften their texture before cutting them up for your younger toddler. Cut round food items like grapes or cherry tomatoes into halves or quarters, and grate carrots or serve them julienne style. Always cut hot dogs into quarters. Toast bread if it is moist and could stick in your toddler's mouth or throat.

Unsafe Foods

Some table foods are best avoided until your toddler can eat food without modification or special preparation. Common choking hazards such as popcorn, chips, tough meat, hard candy, nuts and peanut butter may cause choking even when given in small pieces or quantities. Your toddler should practice eating table foods that are toddler friendly and safe. Eventually she will be ready to add these other foods to her diet.

Other Considerations

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Remove any unwanted parts or difficult to eat parts from table foods and cut meats across the grain. Remove seeds or stones from fruit and remove seeds from bread. These items can choke your toddler. Size is often not the main issue and you should eliminate questionable items rather than try to cut them up. If your toddler is developmentally delayed, ask your pediatrician for instructions and always prepare table foods according to his guidelines.