Candy for Babies? What Parents Should Know
  /   Dr. John Snow

Candy for Babies? What Parents Should Know

You’ve probably heard the expression, “It’s like taking candy from a baby.” But should your baby have candy in the first place? Let’s talk about it.

Can Babies Have Candy?

Candy needs to be chewed, and this is reason enough not to give it to your baby. Children don’t develop all of their primary teeth until somewhere between the ages of two and three years old, and some babies may not have their first tooth emerge until they’re one year old. Long story short, you definitely shouldn’t give any solid foods to your baby if they don’t have teeth yet.

Candy is a choking hazard for any little one who can’t chew yet, so it’s best to wait until they’re at least two or until they are able to chew solid foods. Even still, though, keep in mind that candy isn’t a healthy option, and there are other snacks out there that can satisfy a sweet tooth!

The Lowdown on Candy for Kids

Healthy habits begin early in life — starting early can make it easier to set the foundation for balanced choices as your child’s “normal.” 

If candy and processed foods aren’t a regular part of their life from a young age, they’ll probably be at least a little bit less likely to gravitate toward them. 

If we’re being really honest, there’s technically no reason for any of us to ever have candy — but that’s not always realistic (or fun). Candy doesn’t offer any substantial nutritional value, which means you, and your kids, can live your whole life without ever eating a piece of candy and be perfectly healthy. 

The truth is that it’s perfectly fine to have foods you enjoy simply for the sake of indulging. Life is too short to deprive yourself of the occasional box of candy at the movie theater or a giant birthday cupcake when it’s your birthday day. 

However, the average American child consumes a shocking 53 pounds of added sugar per year, with 31% of that sugar coming directly from sweet snacks like candy. Added sugar can contribute to all kinds of long-term health risks — added sugar consumption is a severe health concern, and being mindful of the snacks you serve is the easiest solution to the problem.

Candy is a special treat, not an important food. Giving your toddler or child candy on a regular basis may not be the best idea, but a couple of pieces every now and then probably won’t hinder things too much. 

When Can Toddlers and Children Safely Have Candy?

As children get older, they’re likely to eventually develop a curiosity about Halloween candy and party snacks. Some types of candy aren’t safe for youngsters, so always make sure any candy you’re allowing your child to eat is suitable for their age group.

Ages Two to Three

Children ages two to three typically don’t have the ability to safely chew sticky or hard candy, like caramel or mints. These types of candies pose a choking hazard, even if you’re closely supervising your child. Small, hard candies, like jelly beans, can be especially dangerous. 

Children ages two to three may be able to have candy that easily melts, like small pieces of chocolate or puffed candy. Cotton candy is one of the safest choices because it completely dissolves when it comes into contact with saliva. It will turn to liquid so quickly that you don’t need to be concerned about your child choking if you give them small puffs one at a time.

Ages Four and Up

By age four, your child will likely have all or most of their primary teeth and be able to chew thoroughly. 

It’s generally safe to allow four-year-olds to have lollipops, caramel, taffy, and jelly beans with supervision. Just be mindful of hard candy that’s meant to dissolve in the mouth, like jawbreakers — they could be dangerous if your child accidentally swallows them or attempts to bite them.

Use your best discretion when giving your child a new food for the first time, especially if that food has a tough texture or is difficult to chew. If you don’t feel comfortable giving a particular type of candy to your child or if you feel they won’t be able to eat it safely, reach for something else instead. 

What Are Healthy Alternatives to Candy for Toddlers?

Hear us out: what if you didn’t use candy as a fun snack? There are plenty of alternatives to candy that are just as fun to eat, but they do something that candy can’t — they provide your child with the vitamins and minerals they need to grow and thrive, and they contain little to no added sugar. 

If you want to keep some sweet treats in the house, consider using these alternatives as daily snacks.

100% Real Fruit Ice Pops

As more and more families shift towards healthier eating habits, healthier options are becoming more common in grocery stores. For example, you might find that the ice cream aisle of your local grocery store now has real fruit ice pops made without added sugar

Nutritionally, these pops are the same as fruit — they’re just as fun to eat as any other sweet treat on a stick.

If you can’t find real fruit ice pops in your local freezer section, it’s also relatively easy to make some fruit pops yourself. All you need is a popsicle mold for your freezer and 100% juice or some fresh or frozen fruit. 

If you opt for juice, just pour it into your molds and freeze — it’s that simple. Just be sure that you’re choosing 100% fruit juice with no added sugar. Juice cocktail products masquerade as real juice, but they’re nutritionally similar to candy in their sugar content.

If you opt for fresh or frozen fruit, toss your fruit into a blender, blend it up with small amounts of water until liquidy and smooth, then pour and freeze. It’s simple and yummy.

Freeze-Dried Fruit

Freeze-dried fruit is crunchy and tangy, and the crunch factor can make it a little more fun and interesting to eat than a bowl of fresh, sliced fruit. 

You can also use freeze-dried fruit to add a satisfying crunch to other foods, like yogurt or smoothies. Since freeze-dried fruit has a very long shelf life, it’s easy to keep stocked in your pantry and use on days when you may not have fresh fruit in the house.

Dark Chocolate-Covered Fruit

Dark chocolate-covered berries or bananas are a “best of both worlds” treat. You’re getting a little bit of dark chocolate, but it’s paired with a valuable source of vitamins and minerals. 

Chocolate-covered berries are easy to make at home. All you need to do is melt some dark chocolate chips in a double boiler on your stove or even in your microwave — ideally, choose dark chocolate with 90% cacao for the most health-supporting benefits. 

Dip the berries into your melted chocolate, let them cool in the fridge, and they’re ready to eat.

You can also turn dark chocolate-covered berries into a fun family experience by allowing your children to dip their own berries. As long as the chocolate isn’t molten hot, it can be a safe and fun activity that gets the whole family in the kitchen together!

Yogurt Melts

Next time you’re at the grocery store, go to the baby food aisle — there just might be a treat hiding in plain sight that everyone in the family will love, even if they’re old enough to drive (and vote). Yogurt melts are typically meant for toddlers, but they’re surprisingly delicious. 

These freeze-dried pieces of yogurt are similar in size and shape to jumbo chocolate chips. They’re satisfyingly sweet, and their slightly crunchy texture makes them feel a little bit like candy. They come in a wide variety of fruit flavors, and you can mix several flavors together to make a rainbow assortment — kind of like a healthy alternative to those artificially flavored “taste the rainbow” candies.

You can also use them to top off parfaits or mix them into trail mix. They’re a great add-in to any recipe that calls for unbaked chocolate chips!

The Wrap-Up on Candy for Babies

Babies generally aren’t able to eat solid foods while their teeth are still coming in, so candy isn’t safe for them. Instead, reach for freeze-dried fruits, fruit popsicles, or yogurt melts. 

With these ideas, you can keep candy off the menu and use nutritious sweet treats to steer your kiddos away from excessive added sugar. When you’re working to build healthy habits for your little ones, Hiya has you covered with multivitamins made for kids.


Baby’s First Tooth: 7 Facts Parents Should Know |

How much sugar is too much? | American Heart Association

Household Safety: Preventing Choking (for Parents) | Nemours KidsHealth

Experts Recommend Kids Drinks Less Fruit Juice | Stanford Children's Health