Safe Sizer Choking Prevention Plate – Our Story and Giveaway

I’m David Zak, the inventor of the Safe Sizer™ choking prevention plate and the dad of 3 beautiful kids aged 2 to 8. Now, I don’t consider myself an overprotective parent. When my kids are playing I don’t rush to them every time they fall down. But I do worry about the big things. Those potentially fatal but very preventable “accidents” that can happen so easily if you’re not careful. Choking on food is one of those things.

When my oldest was beginning to eat solid foods, I knew I was supposed to cut it up into really small pieces to reduce his risk of choking. But I was always asking myself “How small is small?” I should also mention that I’m a former engineer, and I simply needed a little more precision than “small”.

Safe Sizer plate1So, I did some research. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 75 children under the age of 14 die in the US every year from choking on food and about 7,500 are treated in emergency rooms. These are senseless and preventable tragedies. Additionally, the CDC data shows children under 2 years have the highest rates of choking deaths in this group, but children up to 4 years are still particularly vulnerable because they lack a full set of teeth.

I also found a recommendation regarding food size to reduce the risk of choking. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children younger than 4 years old not be fed any round, firm food unless it is cut into pieces no larger than one-half inch in any direction.

You think you know how small one-half inch is until you start trying to cut up pieces of food to that size. It’s smaller than you think. At least, it’s smaller than we thought. And, my wife Susie and I thought, maybe this is smaller than most people would expect. If most people have even heard of this guideline…and it’s pretty important. Nobody we knew had, and we thought they should.

As I thought about how to get this information out to more people, I kept coming back to the small objects test cylinder developed by the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC). The cylinder’s purpose is to show parents what objects are too small to give a child under 3 because it could block the child’s windpipe. If a toy fits in the cylinder than it fails. As a matter of fact, if a toy fails this test it is required to have a label on its packaging stating it is a potential choking hazard. So why not a test cylinder for food?

But food is a little different. You want it to be swallowed, so here smaller is better. But there is one big advantage with food that I thought would make a test cylinder idea work even better than it does for toys. Food is typically served in pretty standard ways. There’s usually either a plate or a placemat or a tray or some other type of tableware. So a food test cylinder could always be right in front of you if it was built into the tableware itself.

So I invented the Safe Sizer™ . It is a ½ inch diameter ring that could potentially be put anywhere and on anything on which children can be served food, in orderSafe Sizer plate 3 to:

  1. inform those who don’t know about the one-half inch size recommendation
  2. remind those who do to follow it at the exact place and time when they need the reminder
  3. provide a test gauge to accurately measure bite sizes to one-half inch or less

After striking out multiple times trying to convince some large manufacturers of children’s tableware that the Safe Sizer™ was a good idea, Susie and I decided we would just do it ourselves. We formed a company and called it Midwest Monkeys® after our 3 monkeys who were all born in the Midwest. We live in Albuquerque now so it was also a way of bringing a piece of our personal history with us.

Over the next year and a half we joined the major industry group, the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA), met a great product designer, developed, tested, and finally produced our first product that incorporated the Safe Sizer™ feature. We designed a set of three colorful melamine plastic plates with a 3-dimensional raised ring version of the Safe Sizer™ built right into the plate. To use the 3-dimensional Safe Sizer™ feature on the plates, the parent or grandparent or babysitter or any caregiver serving a child a meal simply places a piece of cut up food inside the raised ring, turns it to ensure the piece fits in every direction without going over the sides, and then hands over the plate to the child..

While we could have put the Safe Sizer™ feature on any number of different tableware, the plastic plate made the most sense. It is probably the most commonly used serving dish for kids and plastic allowed us to mold the feature right into plate making it permanent. By using melamine plastic, we also got a very durable, dishwasher safe, and food safe plastic. Lastly, we tested at the CPSIA accredited Intertek Labs to ensure that the Safe Sizer™ plates were fully compliant with the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008). They meet or exceed all standards for lead, phthalates, and melamine plastics.

The Safe Sizer™ choking prevention plates have been available since January 2009 and the response has been wonderful. We’ve gotten a lot of feedback from parents about how their kids don’t want to use any other plate and how they love putting food in the Safe Sizer™ to show their parents that the food is the right size! We’ve been mentioned in numerous articles, on TV, and in mom blogs. We’re particularly proud of the awards we’ve won including iParenting Media, The National Parenting Center, PTPA (Parent Tested, Parent Approved), and Creative Child Magazine. But what we’re most proud of is that maybe we’ll help prevent one of those 75 kids and their parents from suffering a senseless tragedy.


Choking Prevention Guidelines

Here are some great guidelines on food choking prevention from the American Academy of Pediatrics. I would encourage all parents and caregivers to look at their site (Parenting Corner Q&A: Choking Prevention) for more information.

  1. Always supervise your children while eating
  2. Insist that kids are sitting while eating. No walking, running, playing, or lying down.
  3. Avoid the foods that kids most commonly choke on: hot dogs, nuts & seeds, chunks of meat & cheese, whole grapes, hard or gooey or sticky candy, popcorn, chunks of peanut butter, raw vegetables, raisins, and chewing gum.
  4. Cut food for infants and young children into pieces no larger than one-half inch, and teach them to chew their food well

***Introducing our: “SAFE SIZER PLATES FOR FEWER CHOKING KIDS” Giveaway!***

The Prize:

For 3 winners: you may each choose your favorite 2 plates *PLUS* a wildcard (1 extra winner) – see below for details

And here’s how it works: Safe Sizer plate2

Below you will find a PEDIATRIC SAFETY CONTEST ENTRY FORM. It includes 2 MANDATORY entries for the contest as well as the opportunity for you to enter BONUS entries…

For simplicity (and so that you can tweet multiple times) you can use this form for each entry, however you must fill out a separate form for each entry for it to count!

How to enter:

For your Mandatory Entry: You MUST do these 2 things FIRST or no other entries will count!

  1. We at Midwest Monkeys need your help. We’re trying to make some improvements to our website but we’re not really sure where to start. So please go to our site, come back here and tell us on the form below what you’d suggest we do to make the site better. We’re looking for real suggestions that show us you’ve actually gone to the site….plus…we have a surprise for you…the BEST suggestion will win our “wildcard prize”…a single plate of your choice in addition to the ones we already mentioned – and we’re choosing this winner! (1 entry)
  2. Tell us which 2 plates you like best so we know which ones to send when YOU WIN (1 entry)

For your Bonus entries:

  1. Follow @pediatricsafety on twitter and tweet the following: “I just entered a SafeSizer Choking Prevention Plate Giveaway @PediatricSafety 3 winners! Safer kids! Great Idea!
  2. OR Toddlers need to eat food in pieces <1/2″. SafeSizer plates make that easy! Giveaway w/ 3+ winners RT @PediatricSafety” (you may tweet both: 1 entry for each per day)

  3. Blog about our story and giveaway on your own site and link to this post (2 entries – please submit 2 forms)
  4. Join the Pediatric Safety community using the “Join our Community” button. (4 entries – please submit 4 forms)


Our 3 Main Contest Winners – Win 2 Plates Each:

  1. Traci Fritz #62 – with a Bonus Entry: joined the Pediatric Safety site
  2. Stephanie Clark #77 – with a Mandatory Entry #1: website suggestion
  3. Katrina Brandenburg #31 – with a Mandatory Entry #2: which 2 plates she wanted if she won



Our Wildcard Winners – Wins Their Choice of Plate for the Most Helpful Website Suggestion

  • Kristen Chumley – I think the theme should be circles. Maybe you could make the navbar circles instead of a single rectangle. Show the 3 styles of plates and when you scroll over them, there could be a zoom feature for users to check out the safe sizer. Another idea would be to have a video demonstation so people could see how useful it is to get a visual guide of 1/2″.

Contest Rules:

Giveaway is open to USA and Canada readers only. Giveaway ends at noon EST Friday Sept 11, 2009. Please fill out a separate form for each entry with your name and a valid email address so we can make sure each entry gets counted. You will have 48 hours to email if you win. 3 winners chosen using for the main prizes; 1 winner chosen by Midwest Monkeys for the wildcard prize. Good Luck to all entrants!


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