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4 Ways to Help Toddlers Stop Throwing Food

by Marnie Bii | December 27th, 2021 | Behavior, Infants/Toddlers

toddler eating (2) (400x400)Just when you think you are safe to eat your own meal with your toddler eating in a highchair nearby does the food throwing begin. As you quickly grow exasperated by these messy antics, your toddler is likely just starting to really enjoy this new game. You do not have to resign yourself to wasting your time, energy and food; it is actually possible to end this habit with a few easy steps. You just need to take the fun out of the activity and your toddler will eventually stop. Here are a few ways to suck the fun out of food throwing.

Place Less Food

Toddlers often start to throw food when their bellies feel full. In their efforts to problem solve how the world works, your child may feel like they need to eliminate all of the food on the tray before being released from the highchair. Eliminate this problem by giving your child 1/3 of the prepared meal and going from there. Work on using hand signs for more and all done to facilitate better communication during mealtimes. When your child signals all done, clean the tray and provide a toy if everyone else is still eating.

Put Pets Outside

Toddlers love to share their bounty with family pets. Take this temptation out of the equation by gating pets out of the room during mealtimes. Neither your pets nor toddler will be happy about this decision, but it is really best for everyone involved. Without the instant reward of seeing a happy pet gobble up the dropped food, the action will become that much more boring.

Ignore the Action

If pets are not responding to the food throwing, your reaction might be the one your toddler is hoping to elicit. Toddlers love to see their parents act surprised, appalled and irritated at their antics. Even a faux “Uh Oh” when food is accidentally dropped can inadvertently encourage your toddler to repeatedly throw food on the ground in hopes of receiving the same response. Instead, completely ignore the food throwing until the end of the mealtime, and then discuss cleaning it up.

Require Cleanup

At the end of the meal, refrain from releasing your child from the chair and allowing him or her to toddle away. Instead, ask them to help clean up the tray and floor to remove all of the leftover food. Toddlers will quickly learn that the floor cleanup process is messy, boring and time consuming. Make the tray cleanup at the sink much more fun and exciting. At the next meal, remind your toddler that all leftover food will require cleaning, so it is best to keep it on the tray for quick, easy and fun cleanup.

As you work with your toddler, you may deal with meltdowns and other distractions from the intended lessons. Simply take a break from the teaching moment and return to it at the next meal. You will have plenty of chances to help your child understand that throwing food never results in a fun time.

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