We have a food thrower in the house. Food throwing can be cute, for about five seconds. We sit down to eat and half of the food ends up on the floor…every single meal. The other day I lunged for a half-full cup of yogurt as my son threw it over the side of his high chair laughing. I watching as it splattered all over the floor, chairs and the walls. Recently it has gotten out of control and I realized something needed to change. When you are cleaning up mess after mess after mess if gets old fast!
We are getting ready for a wedding the boys are in in two weeks so I decided it was time to buckle down and nip this behavior in the bud. But how? I started talking about this with friends, family, and anyone who would listen. It seems everyone has dealt with this at one time or another which is comforting but not really helpful. So I turned online to see what tried and true methods are out there. There seemed to be some good information, next step – trying them out!
My food thrower is in his toddler phase, a one and a half-year old out of control. From what I’ve learned you tackle food throwing different for different ages. Infants between 9 and 12 months old tend to throw food as a way to learn about cause and effect. What happens when food falls? Will it make a mess? Will the food go splat? As your child enters the toddler years, between one and three years old, food throwing becomes more about getting a reaction and attention from parents. The more you react the more it will happen. It becomes a fun game to your toddler, which is 100% true because my toddler laughs every time he throws his food.
Here are some techniques people swear by …
Stay calm, don’t react. This is the most important step. Once you react you give them what they want, attention. My oldest yells at our toddler every time he throws his food so get the whole family on board so the food thrower doesn’t get attention from anyone else.
Start by giving small servings. Avoid serving portions that are too large. Large portions encourage food throwing because there is more food on the tray when your child gets full or bored of the particular food he or she is eating. Start with a little food. Let your child ask for more. You can teach sign language for ‘more’ until they are able to say the words. Continue giving your child more until you see signs your child may be getting full.
Take food away. Don’t put the food back on the tray or plate. They need to learn that once they throw the food they don’t get it back. This can be a hard one for parents. Some people strongly believe their child should not get food after that so they learn a lesson and others can’t fathom sending their kids to bed without food. Kids don’t have a concept of time at this age so waiting an hour or so to give them a little food (not a treat) later will allow them to feel hunger pains but then you aren’t worried your child is not getting enough to eat. If it is a younger baby, finish feeding them yourself. Toddlers are not going to take too kindly to getting fed, wanting to do everything themselves. So the next best option is to stop the meal and make them clean up the mess themselves, guiding his or her hand through the motions. Cleaning is not as much fun as throwing food so most kids they will get sick of the whole thing quick.
Tell them what you want them to do. Use a phrase that tells them what you want to have happen, not what you want to avoid. Instead of saying, ‘don’t throw food’ say something like ‘we keep food on our plate’.
Watch your child’s cues. Food throwing might be your child’s way of saying ‘I am full’, especially if they can’t talk yet. Teach them sign language for ‘all done’ or tell them to say ‘all done’ when they do not want the food anymore. Remove the food immediately and praise them for letting you know. Food throwing can also be a sign your child is done with the particular food they are eating and wants something else to eat. Offer a variety of food to make sure your child gets the nutrition they need.
Allow them to say ‘no’ to food. Give them a designated ‘no thank you’ spot to put food (like a napkin, cup holder on the tray, or an extra plate/bowl next to the food).
How did you get through this phase in your child’s life?
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