Testing limits, experimenting with food, creating artwork with fruit juice are all part and parcel of your kid’s growth phase. Every mom gets frustrated to the core, trying to stop their child from playing with food. But your patience is what is going to help you power through this phase. It gets better once you understand why and how you can stop your toddler from throwing food all around them.
Why Do Toddlers Throw Away Their Food?
Toddlers love watching their food all over the place. Most times, they might be just discovering how their gross motor skills work, and sometimes gravity is just fun to observe. During this entire process, when your young one is pushing you over the edge, although unintentionally, you need to understand that from their perspective, it is quite fun to spray and splatter food all over the house.
It can be quite frustrating to watch this entire scene unfold before your eyes while struggling to get your child to eat as mothers and caregivers. In case if you were wondering if this happens only in your home, you don’t have to stress. In almost every home and throughout generations, toddlers ages 8-18 months go through this particular phase of dropping food on the floor.
Often, the reason can be as simple as your baby is not hungry or has major difficulty chewing the food. We often fail to recognize that their teeth and tastebuds are not as developed as ours and become snappy.
We have listed down a few more reasons why most toddlers throw food on the floor that might help you, in the long run, to understand them much better.
- Way of communication: If you observe closely, you might learn that dropping food (for some) is a method of non-verbal communication. Once children understand they do not have to eat the food flung on the floor, they might start doing the same whenever they do not like a particular food or how it looks. This is also how toddlers learn to distinguish between food that appeals to them, and that does not.
- Cause and effect relationship: Your young scientist is learning how there can be consequences to every action. And in a fun manner! For instance, if you have a dog in the house to lick up the food your child throws on the floor, they might begin to understand the major relationship between cause and effect and how it works.
- Forced to eat: Most of us want to finish feeding our toddlers to start on our next work as soon as possible, not realizing that they do not like being fed in that particular way. What it does to most kids is create issues about their eating habits and eventually being very picky with their food. It also happens that sometimes toddlers who have been force-fed more than a couple of times begin to throw their food on the floor as a show of protest.
- Attention seeking: Note that if you react when your toddler starts to fling the food across the room, your little one will love it. Kids love attention, and if you are not focused on them while feeding, it compels them to make you notice their presence. As an adult, you have to keep yourself in check and not make it into a power struggle but rather be firm and consistent with your response to them. Once they realize that it no longer triggers you, they will, most probably, stop repeating the behavior.
Now that we have an idea of why most toddlers throw food, let us know about ways to prevent them from doing so.
What to Do When Your Child Throws Food?
Coming to the crux of the matter, what can you do as a parent when your child throws food on the floor, ceiling, and all over the room? Are you going to try to reason with a toddler or get all worked up? Knowing that this might become a daily occurrence in the kitchen, how are you planning on tackling the situation?
To make your mornings a little easier, we have compiled certain easy tips to teach your toddler not to throw food:
1. Offer choices
Most toddlers like having a say in what they consume. You can provide them with two or three options (you can rotate between milk, vegetables, and fruits), making them more interested in their food choices.
2. Eat alongside your toddler
When you give concentrated attention to your child, they feel loved. Most children nowadays lack attention from their parents, making it hard for them in the later years. When you sit alongside your toddler eating and talking with them, you instill certain values and avert potential bad behavior that can probably occur.
3. Put less on their plate
We want our kids to be filled with healthy food that builds up their immune system, forgetting that they would not be able to consume so much. There’s always milk, fruits, one or two vegetables, formula, juice, and whatnot for them to eat up, leaving no time to exhaust all that energy. Here’s where we need to use our senses and realize that more food on the plate means more food for them to play with and use as ammunition.
4. Complying with the rules
When your child is around 20 months old or even before, you can begin to set a clear limit to show that certain behavior like dropping food or flinging them onto the ceiling is frowned upon. A little discipline can help the child to prevent disruptive actions in the future.
5. Divert your child’s attention elsewhere
Children, especially toddlers, have a low attention span. Diverting your child’s attention by playing a game that captures their full attention or making up a storyline that involves food or anything remotely amusing can encourage their eating habit. Parents need to get creative as they come.
6. It’s okay to dislike food
Sometimes toddlers drop food on the floor just because they do not like that particular food. Instead of forcing them to consume something they do not like, you can always offer to take it away from their plate and give them something else to eat. It’s as easy as that. When you try to force them into eating something they dislike, they might act out. What we parents can do is to tackle situations like these smoothly with another solution, creatively.
7. Necessary precautions
You have to make all the necessary arrangements when you know that your toddler throwing food on the floor might make a mess of things, even if it is unintentional. Their fine motor skills have not yet been developed fully, resulting in much scattering and splattering of food. In cases like that, you can roll up their sleeves or put a bib around their neck, place newspapers around their sitting area, and maybe even stay away from the walls and curtains so that you can do damage control.
8. Replacing the fallen food
Try replacing the food your toddler throws on their plate while verbally conveying that food belongs on the plate and not on the floor. You can also teach them to say or show that they are done eating when they are full. It helps them not to overeat but, at the same time, go easy on their hunger pangs.
9. Praising them
If your toddler consumes more food than by your floor or dog, you can call it to be a success. Change does not happen overnight, and for toddlers, it is pretty hard not to poke around and play with food. And so, praising them and applauding their efforts might get you on their good books. They might even take more effort to restrain themselves from the next time onwards.
What to Do If Nothing Works?
If all the above steps to help your baby stop throwing food do not work, have a “discard plate” for your toddler to keep the food they do not want to eat. You can substitute the food with something they like. Even if the child does not eat, at least your house will remain intact. If your toddler is in the mood to play and you have been running behind them trying to get them to eat, it is more likely that food will spray all over the room since your child is in a playful mood and wants nothing to do with eating. Lastly, in each case, remind yourself not to raise your voice harshly as it can negatively impact them the next time they have to eat.
Now that you have a strategy for the next meal with your toddler, you can be relaxed. Most children learn by experimentation and fun. If your home is stress-free and provides a good environment for your toddler to learn and grow, it will help them during their growing up years.