As excited as parents are to have their toddlers try new foods, one of the downsides is winding up with food on the floor. Or worse still, having food thrown directly at parents themselves. Something that may seem malicious at the moment but is nothing more than normal toddler development. And while it can be aggravating to deal with a mess to clean up, the mess can be cleaned. What is important to remember is that toddlers do not throw food to irritate parents.
Mealtimes are an important time for toddlers. It not only lets them explore different flavors and textures, but it also teaches little ones what is and is not appropriate when sitting down for a meal. But, when toddlers are unable to communicate what it is that they need, no amount of seeing what is appropriate helps them with their frustration to express themselves. And this means turning to any means possible to get the point across, especially when sitting in a high chair, throwing food.
Here is why toddlers do not throw food on the floor to irritate parents.
Toddlers Do Not Throw Food To Irritate Parents
When trying to get toddlers to eat to no avail, it can seem like their throwing food is done purposefully to get a rise out of parents. But what parents need to understand is that toddlers are still cognitively developing. Along with this, their abilities to know right from wrong are not yet fully developed. And as a result, they do not understand that throwing food is wrong.
According to Psychology Today, toddlers are still working on controlling their impulses. Because of this, if it sounds fun to throw food or interesting to see what happens if it sticks to the wall, toddlers will do it. Food is not being thrown to make parents mad. That is the last thing that toddlers want to do. The goal is cause and effect, which helps toddlers better understand the world they live in.
Why Toddlers Throw Food
While toddlers are not throwing food on the floor to irritate their parents, there are reasons why food is being thrown. Some of the reasons which parents may not have thought of but in hindsight, make total sense.
According to The Children’s Nutritionistthe reasons that toddlers throw food on the floor include:
- They are done eating
- Boredom has set in
- The effort to eat the food on the tray is too great
- Seeking out attention from parents
- Learning about cause and effect
- Testing how far they can push boundaries
- The food is not pleasing on the palate
There could also be reasons that revolve around watching pets eat the food thrown or that throwing food is just plain fun at play, according to What To Expect.
Regardless of what the reason for the throwing may be, if parents can remember that it is not being done to upset them, that will go a long way to keeping cool heads when explaining why it is that food is not thrown during meals.
How To React When Toddlers Throw Food
It can take every bit of patience that parents have on some days to deal with toddlers throwing food. But with calculated reactions, parents can help to put an end to food throwing in fairly short order.
According to Solid Starts, the best reactions parents can give their toddlers who are throwing food include:
- Ignore the food being thrown
- Ask toddlers if they are full
- Stay calm no matter how hard it may be
- Not ending dinner for the rest of the family because toddlers threw their food on the ground
- Remind toddlers to keep food on the tray
It may take some time for toddlers to stop throwing food because they truly want to see the reaction they get from their parents. But, if the reaction is no reaction, there is no longer a need to throw food to get attention.
How To Stop Toddlers From Throwing Food
Just like there are a variety of reasons that toddlers are throwing food, there are just as many ways to combat it from happening. And when parents can understand what it is that motivates babies to throw food, it is a situation that can be addressed.
According to Today’s Parentways to get toddlers to stop throwing food, include:
- Do not give the situation a reaction
- Push the highchair up the table without the tray
- Put animals outside at mealtimes
- Understand that toddlers are trying to communicate and work to understand what that is
Other ideas, according to What To Expect include:
- Teach toddlers to sign the words “full,” “bored,” or any other words that revolve around mealtime
- Put less food on the plate
- Make mealtime short
- Make mealtimes the same daily
Any of these reasons and potentially more are what is causing toddlers to make a colorful mess during meals. But by addressing them calmly versus being angry and upset, the food throwing will eventually come to an end. A day that parents who have to constantly deal with food throwing may feel like cannot come soon enough.
Source: Psychology Today, The Children’s Nutritionist, What To Expect, Solid Starts