Tu Bishvat – the Jewish “new year of trees,” with its joyous themes of nature and renewal – will be marked on Shabbat. But carelessness about young children eating nuts and dried fruits could result in tragedy.

Beterem, the national center for child safety and health, is warning parents and teachers to keep youngsters up to the age of five far from such hard foods, as well as from soft, round foods like whole grapes. In 2010, 13 children died from choking on foreign objects, including fruits and nuts.

The most dangerous ages are one and two, but the high risk also goes up to five, as youngsters do not have adequate control of their natural swallowing mechanism. In addition, they do not yet have molars for proper grinding; they are still learning to eat properly; and their cough reflex is not well developed.

Until a baby’s first birthday, choking on food or foreign objects is responsible for 52.7 percent of accidental deaths.

Beterem director-general Orly Silbinger said that hot dogs should be cut lengthwise and then into horizontal slices. Hard vegetables and fruits such as carrots and apples must be cut into small pieces if raw, or cooked and mashed. Chicken and meat should also be cut into chewable small pieces, the skin and bones having first been removed.

Olives should be pitted.

Do not feed lollipops, nuts, popcorn, raisins, hard candies or other sucking snacks to children under five. Crunchy peanut butter should also be avoided.

Don’t give children up to the age of three marshmallows, chewing gum, toffee, gumdrops or M&M-type candies. Since 2006, such foods – packaged or not – have had to be labeled in Hebrew and Arabic as being dangerous for consumption by young children.

Although dried fruits and nuts are nutritious, be aware of the fact that they are high in calories, especially those to which sugar has been added. Fruits also lose much of their vitamin content through drying.

They do, however, contain lots of minerals and fiber, which are beneficial.

Don’t feed young children when they are crying, running or playing wildly.

Eating is best done when they are sitting calmly at the table and belted into their seats.

As Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael- Jewish National Fund tree plantings are a tradition on or around Tu Bishvat, Beterem urges that caution be taken when children are involved. Don’t leave digging tools standing, and they should be kept out of the reach of young children.

Buy plants from familiar shops and nurseries to avoid poisonous species. Fill in all holes before leaving the site.

Meanwhile, Magen David Adom is organizing planting ceremonies for children with disabilities.

Some of the events will take place in the Ben-Shemen Forest.

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