If you’re struggling with food throwing in your house from your toddler or baby, know that you are not alone. Over the past few months, Baylor, my youngest, has been wreaking havoc in my kitchen (well, anywhere he eats food!). Today, I want to talk a little about food throwing and how to stop your toddler throwing food on the floor.
It’s almost as if toddlers throw food on the floor to get a rise out of us. How much food throwing can mommy handle before she blows her lid!?
Do you ever notice that right after they begin food throwing, they kinda glance your way like, “nana nana boo, what are you going to do about it?”
We’re only human, and no matter how cute our children are, we end up pushed over the edge more times than we’d like to admit. Watching your baby or toddler throw food is no exception.
So, how can you put an end to your baby or toddler throwing food on the floor once and for all?
In this article, I will share with you ways to help your child understand that throwing food is not funny and a few great tips to stop your toddler from throwing food on the floor!
Why Do Babies and Toddlers begin Food Throwing?
You’ve probably noticed the food throwing from your toddler begin to really ramp up around 7 or 8 months old. It usually tapers down by the time your child reaches two years old.
There are many various reasons for your baby throwing food throughout these different ages. Some of the most common reasons for food throwing include:
Out of Pure Boredom
Many times you’ll notice your toddler throwing food on the floor out of pure boredom. If you decide to do the dishes or move to the other room thinking your baby will sit there in silence waiting on your return, it ain’t happenin’! Babies and toddlers quickly learn that food throwing is an easy way to get your attention and a big reaction from you.
Learning Cause and Effect
Most of the time, if your toddler is throwing food on the floor, something will happen shortly after. This may be the dog coming to eat it, their sibling tattling, or us getting asking them to stop throwing food. In a calm manner, of course 😉
They may be eager to feel the texture as they throw it, the “plop” sound on the ground, or watch the dog dart by to get it.
A Way of Communicating
Most babies can only communicate by babbling, giggling, or crying. Despite their inability to form complete sentences, they’re pretty good at getting their point across. After your toddler is throwing food on the floor, they’ll start to notice a reaction from you. When they eat unwanted food or dislike a food, it quickly goes to the floor to let you know!
Fear of Being Forced to Eat
At some point, we’ve all been tempted or have tried to force vegetables or other unwanted foods on our little ones despite knowing it will not help in the long haul. Some babies and toddlers will begin food throwing immediately after seeing it as a form of defense if they are used to being force-fed.
All of these causes are entirely normal. But, it still doesn’t help calm your nerves after we spend an evening preparing dinner only to find your toddler throwing food on the floor.
PS: If you’re struggling finding vegetables for picky eaters, check out my article for tips, preparation methods, and more!
Thankfully, there are a few proven methods to stop the madness and food throwing surrounding mealtime.
How to Stop a Toddler From Throwing Food For Good
No matter the age of your baby or toddler throwing food on the floor, these tips will help ensure their food stays on the high chair tray and break the annoying habit once and for all.
1. Give them your undivided attention
I won’t lie, this one is tough. With the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it seems impossible to really sit down one on one with your child. Personally, I’m running around trying to do the dishes, get the older sibling in the tub, and finish up work stuff.
However, I think this is the most important thing to stop food throwing. When your baby knows that they have your complete attention, it’s less likely that they will start food throwing to get your attention. It can also help you stop the food throwing before it begins and prevent a huge mess in the kitchen.
Consider using words and facial expressions to communicate with your child about meal time to better understand any negative emotions that could be surrounding your baby throwing food on the floor.
2. Serve smaller portions
If you’ve ever tried food that you totally hate, it’s no secret that the first thing you want to do is toss it in the trash. The same goes for your toddler. While you’re working on exploring different textures and foods with your child, it’s important to just offer a few bites of new food at first to stop your toddler from throwing food on the floor.
Additionally, it’s probably a good idea to offer just a few pieces of all foods to prevent them from getting thrown on the floor, too. The less food on their tray, the less likely they will throw it. (and less of a mess, if they do!) This can also help teach your child to learn portion control and nurture their natural ability to eat intuitively.
3. Don’t react
OK, I lied in number one. This might be the most difficult one. Do you mean we have to sit through a food-throwing episode and suffer through it in silence!?
The more visibly upset or angry you get, your toddler throwing food on the floor may only get worse. When they sense a reaction from you, they will be more likely to start throwing food on the floor again.
This one personally worked for me the best. I hid my emotions as best as I could and remained calm. My toddler’s food throwing episodes began to decrease once I, in addition to the entire family, began to react less. If it means putting the dog up during dinner time, it may be worth it!
4. OK, you can react a little!
After you take a deep breath and “calmly” pick up the food off of the floor, avoid putting it back in the hands of your toddler.
Instead, you can say something like “food does not go on the floor,” or “food belongs on your plate.” Keep the tone serious but not angry, and keep the conversation between you and your baby or toddler. My older son is the worst at going into the room behind me and saying, ‘yeah, Baylor, mommy says you’re BAD!”
5. Limit snacks
My toddler is a big eater. Right when he gets picked up from daycare, he thinks it’s snack time. After one snack, he cries and screams until he gets another snack. However, this causes him to be full during mealtime and finish eating much earlier than if he hadn’t had so many snacks.
Limiting the number of snacks can keep your toddler from throwing food on the floor because they will be hungrier during mealtime and more likely to eat the food.
6. Remove them from their high chair
After kids eat enough food, this is usually when the food throwing begins. Odds are, they may be full and throwing food as a form of baby sign language to let you know, “Hey, I’m done!” Regardless, if your toddler is throwing food on the floor, it’s unlikely they are very hungry, so it’s best just to remove them from the situation and call it quits.
7. Have family dinners
Try to make a habit of, at least 2-3 times a week, letting the entire family sit down together and enjoy a meal. This will create a positive eating environment for your child and reduce the risk of your toddler throwing food on the floor.
8. Have a separate bowl to transfer all the food they don’t want
A good way to help your child remain interactive during mealtime without making a mess is to place an empty bowl or dish next to your child’s meal. Encourage them to place the food that they usually throw on the floor into the empty dish. Over time, it will become a habit once they’re finished eating to transfer food into the bowel instead of the floor.
9. Let your kids eat and enjoy food play
Don’t discourage your child from self-feeding or playing in their food. Yes, it can get nasty and messy, but it’s a normal part of their developmental growth and shouldn’t be routinely discouraged. Plus, as long as it stays off of the floor and avoids making a big mess, it’s a win, right?
10. Use a disciplinary phrase they are familiar with
Try to use phrases your baby or toddler understands. For example, my son frequently used the word “no” and had a firm understanding of what that word meant. I found that repeating the term in a firm, authoritative voice helped more than using longer phrases that he may not understand.
11. Avoid confusing intentional food throwing with an accident
Your toddler can drop food in the blink of an eye, making it difficult to always know if they purposely threw the spaghetti on the floor or they accidentally knocked it off the tray. If you’re unsure, I always suggest giving them the benefit of the doubt unless you have reason to believe it was intentional.
12. Avoid serving meals when your child is too tired
When your baby or toddler is very fatigued, it can cause them to be grumpy and throw anything, including food placed in front of them on the floor. Try to plan out meals and snacks and keep the times consistent to avoid late-night meals in which your toddler may be too tired to eat.
You’ve got this, momma!
Toddlers and babies are very inquisitive, and toddlers learn everything by exploring. Although it’s mentally and physically draining cleaning up after a toddler throws food on the floor, know that you’re not alone. Unfortunately, tossing food across the room is totally normal, and many parents are going through similar frustrations as you.
Rest assured, implementing a few of the strategies mentioned above should get you back on track to helping your little one stay calm during meal time and avoid throwing food.
While you’re working to change your child’s mealtime habits and teaching that food belongs on the floor, consider getting a mat to catch food to lessen the headache of cleaning.
If you feel like every trick in the book has failed you, consider speaking with your child’s pediatrician or pediatric nutritionist (dietitian), who can provide additional resources to help you and your growing toddler.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you discipline a toddler who throws food?
- Remain calm
- Keep a stern, authoritative voice and use a phrase familiar with your child.
- Avoid sounding angry
- Explain what you expect from your toddler during mealtime
- Know that this phase will eventually pass
Why is my toddler throwing food on the floor?
The first thing to know is that it is normal for a child between the ages of 8 months and 24 months to throw food on the floor. They may do this out of curiosity, an attempt to communicate, to get attention, or out of boredom. It’s important to give your baby your undivided attention during meal time to limit or avoid toddlers throwing food on the floor.