Throwing food is a universal phase that all children go through when learning how to eat and participating in mealtimes. Here are a few common reasons why children throw food:
What are some ways to address throwing?
1. Ignore what you can – Don’t make big reactions or lots of eye contact. Often kids get more attention for the “undesired” behavior of throwing food than they do for other mealtime activities. By ignoring the tossing, we are teaching them that this behavior doesn’t result in more attention.
2. Keep it simple and positive – If you feel you have to “correct” the behavior by saying something, keep it simple and positive. Instead of “Don’t”, tell them what to do instead. “Food stays on table” “Food on plate” 10 words or less one time is enough!
3. Praise – Offer praise for other more “desired” mealtime behaviors. (i.e. sitting, talking, sharing, etc.). Try telling your child what you want them to do instead “I LOVE how your sitting at the table!”
4. Offer a target – Provide a “No Thank-You” or “All Done” plate for kids to drop their foods into that they no longer want. When you see they are considering tossing a food, offer the plate and teach them “Food can go in all done plate”
5. Clean-Up – Involve your child in clean-up. This can be a positive routine that offers a natural consequence in lieu of a punishment. It’s a great message for kids to receive, “After we eat, we clean up.”
6. Beat them to it – Pay attention for cues that your child may be done. Try to wrap up a meal a few minutes before the tossing behavior begins.