How to stop your little one throwing food at mealtimes November 08 2018, 0 Comments
Mealtimes can be incredibly stressful when you’re teaching your little one to eat. Often more food seems to end up covering the room than in your little ones tummy! The fact of the matter is that this behaviour is perfectly normal. Nevertheless, this fact doesn’t help your patience or your décor. To help it stop, we need to understand why it’s happening.
Why do Babies and Toddlers Throw Food?
Throwing food is completely normal for kids between 8 and 18 months old. This happens for a variety of reasons.
- They are learning cause and effect – It’s fun for babies and toddlers to drop or chuck food, especially onto the floor. They don’t mean to make a mess, they are actually learning that they can make something happen.
- Their way of communicating – Little ones often have limited vocabulary. Once they learn they can drop food, it isn’t long before they realise that they can throw food off their high chair simply because they don’t want to eat it. Babies and toddlers may not like certain foods simply because of how it looks, tastes, the colour it is or its texture. Alternatively, they may not know how to eat it, this is something we often take for granted as parents.
- They want your attention – Kids, even babies and toddlers crave attention, even negative attention. So, if you give them a big reaction when they do something you’re not too thrilled about such as throwing food, they will most likely continue to do it.
- Fear of being force fed – As a parent, you desperately want your little one to eat enough. Partly so they grow into a healthy young and energetic child and partly so that you can get a decent night sleep! Therefore, it can be really tempting to force feed babies and toddlers. We’ve all seen it; “the aeroplane is coming into land”, “the trains coming into the tunnel”, “have 3 more scoops and then you can have pudding”. These are strategies that should be avoided. The truth is that these pressurising techniques tend to cause more negative issues around food that could well go on into their adulthood. Some kids that have been force fed will throw any and all food the instant they see it as a defence mechanism. Try to relax knowing that your little one will eat if they are hungry.
Ok, so hopefully understanding these causes should hopefully help you to keep your stress levels down. Now let’s look at what we can do about it.
Top Tips to Stop your Baby or Toddler Throwing Food
- Give them less food – Kids love to play with their food. If we give them a big helping of food, it literally gives them that much more to throw. Sometimes the reason they’re throwing their food is because it’s an overwhelming amount in front of them, but even if that’s not the case, giving them just a few pieces (try 1-3 at a time) on their tray will often eliminate the throwing of food all together. Try decanting just a little bit from a plate/bowl next to you on to their tray or into their bowl.
- Use a suction bowl – if they love to throw the whole bowl, we recommend using a strong suction bowl. This one on Amazon has the strongest suction by far meaning much less mess. They will no doubt try and try again to remove it but they will soon give up once they realise the bowl is not coming off.
- Give them 100% attention – As a busy parent, we’d often like to unload the dishwasher, clean the kitchen, or make a quick phone call while our babies and toddlers are busy eating, but you’ll be able to stop them from throwing much easier if you’re sitting down with them with your full attention.
- Keep a cool head – Giving the illusion of calm will help your child learn that you are not fazed by any food they throw. Remember that kids love your attention, even if it’s negative attention. You may have to fake your calm-attitude initially but in the long run it will help you to be more patient. This patience will set a lovely, calm tone for mealtimes that allows your child to feel comfortable exploring new foods and eating until their tummy is full!
- State positive expectations – When you’re at mealtime and your little one drops some food on the floor, calmly pick it up and state, “We keep food on the tray”. It is super important not to over-react. You do not want this to sound like a telling off as this is giving the food dropping behaviour too much attention and they will probably do it again. Notice how the language used: “We keep food on the tray” is phrased on the positive expectation, not worded negatively as in this example: “No throwing food”. Remember, you want mealtimes to be calm, positive experiences. You will need to repeat the positive phrase dozens of times, over a period of two weeks or more but trust us, it will sink in eventually. Just stay positive and calm.
- Teach them to put unwanted food into a special section on their high chair – If it’s obvious that your baby or toddler doesn’t like a food and that’s why they’re throwing it, show them that they can pile it into a corner of their tray or a separate compartment (usually for a drink) like many modern high chairs now have. With little ones that are not yet talking, it’s important to understand that they understand far more than they can say so don’t feel like this is all falling on deaf ears. After you repeat the phrase: “We keep food on the tray”, take their hand. While you’re holding their hand or wrist and move it to where they can put their food and say, “You can put it here.”
Now, relax knowing that you’ve got some strategies up your sleeve ready to tackle your little ones next throwing attempts. Stay positive, these strategies will make a difference.