Choking! An Important Lesson for the Kids…

No, no one choked at our house recently, but we did go into a lot of detail about swallowing and choking a few days ago.

I wanted to find a way for the kids to really understand how choking happens — and then to know what to do about it.  Now, don’t take this as expert advice… if you really want to know details about doing abdominal thrusts (Heimlich Maneuver) I suggest you visit a site like the MayoClinic. I will however share the activities the kids and I did together.

If you saw my post from a couple of days ago then you know we’re learning about the Digestive System. We spent quite a bit of time learning about the mouth, teeth, chewing, saliva, the food bolus and so forth. We moved on to the swallowing process after that.

I drew a huge large face with all the mouth parts and we used a brad to create a moving/swinging epiglottis to block off the airway. The torn yellow piece of construction paper you see in the pictures below are the food bolus either going successfully down the esophagus or tragically getting stuck in the windpipe.

I printed out our face onto cardstock (you can print it out by downloading the pack below).  We used an orange piece of foam for our epiglottis:

It’s not anatomically correct that way, but they really got it! Hooray!

I also felt it was important for the kids to know what to do if they come across someone choking. More than 3,00o people die each year from choking (in the U.S.), most of those are children.  The Red Cross recommends giving 5 back blows followed by 5 abdominal thrusts (also known as the Heimlich Maneuver). We practiced on McKenna, the doll. LD (who isn’t into dolls. :) ) especially liked doing that! Just so you know, the Red Cross recommends having a flat hand when doing the back blow (DD’s fingers are curled in the photo below and I didn’t notice that). See the Red Cross brochure for more details.

I also let the kids try to figure out how to do abdominal thrusts on me… that way they could feel my ribs and place their hand above my naval.

To bring everything together, I had a sheet for the kids to add to their science notebook.

Download the Digestive System-Swallowing and Choking Pages here.

Pictionary Activity: They filled that out and then we went over some of the common foods that kids choke on.  I had the kids brainstorm and then once they were stuck, I drew pictures and had them guess. They figured out hot dog and carrot right away, but were stumped on this… Can you guess?

At first I drew those figures on the right (they guessed stars, amoeba…) then I added in the “prison bars” — then I drew the scene on the top left.  Finally, finally they guessed the answer… popcorn!! Then they groaned!

This was quite a bit easier to guess!


So what else do kids choke on? Here are 9 common foods:

  • hard candy
  • apples
  • nuts
  • marshmallows
  • peanut butter
  • hot dogs
  • grapes
  • pop corn
  • carrots

I’m so glad we went over this information about choking. I’ve mentioned it to the kids before, but we really spent a long time and hopefully they remember what to do in an emergency.  Like practicing what to do in case of a fire, I really should repeat this regularly with the kids.  And since I brought it up, you can click here if you’re interested in seeing our Fire Safety Activities. I’ve been doing this regularly with the kids since LD was 4. The kids beg to do this (among other things I make an obstacle course and have the kids practice crawling to safety.) Hmmm… it’s been over a year, I really do need to go over our fire safety plan again — especially for ED.

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  3. [...] Choking, An Important Lesson for the Kids - A lesson about swallowing, the epiglottis and performing abdominal thrusts. Make your own (moveable) epiglottis with the printout to show how food is prevented from entering the windpipe: [...]