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  • Writer's picturePatience

How to Deal with Baby/Toddler Throwing Food on the Floor

Updated: May 10, 2023

One of the most annoying and shocking thing I experienced as a first time mum was seeing my daughter giving me the gangster look as she pick up that food with her tiny hands from her highchair, stretch-out her hand and open her palm and let the food fall off to the ground, while keeping her gaze on me all the time. Then give me the cheeky smile.

Her face after throwing food

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The Science Behind Babies Throwing Food On The Floor

Babies throwing food on the floor at every mealtime can be incredibly frustrating for parents. Not only is it messy, it could also be wasteful and time-consuming.

While it may seem like a simple act of misbehavior, babies throwing food on the floor is actually a developmental milestone. According to research, babies throw food for a variety of reasons, including exploring cause-and-effect relationships, developing hand-eye coordination, and testing parental reactions. Throwing their food is a way for babies to learn about the world around them and how they can interact with it.

Although understanding the psychology behind this act it can still be detrimental to parents' efforts in encouraging babies to eat, hindering the progress of baby-led weaning and extremely frustrating especially for first time parent.

Why Parents Are Frustrated About This Act

Before we dive into the solutions, it's important to understand why parents get frustrated when their babies throw food on the floor. For starters, it's a blatant waste of food. Preparing meals at home can be time-consuming and expensive, so it's understandable that parents want their babies to eat what they are given. Additionally, cleaning up the mess can be a headache after every meal. After all, who wants to spend more time cleaning up after a meal than enjoying it? Due to this frustration, some parents switch to spoon-feeding because they find baby-led weaning too hard to manage.

Why Parents Should Avoid Showing Their Frustration

Her sad face after telling her not to throw food

It's easy for parents to let their frustration show when babies throw food on the floor, but it's crucial that they avoid doing so. When a parent expresses their frustration, it can become confusing and upsetting for the baby. Children will often mimic the behavior and emotions of their parents, which can result in them becoming agitated and stressed out. This could lead to a negative association with mealtime, which might create an unhealthy relationship between the child and food. Instead of displaying frustration, parents should approach the action calmly, saying "no" in a firm voice when the baby throws food on the floor and explain to the child repeatedly why it´s wrong to do so. This approach is far more effective and positive.

Tips and Strategies To Prevent Your Baby From Throwing Food

Discouraging babies from throwing food on the floor can take a bit of patience and creativity from the parents. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Model good behavior: Children learn a lot from their parents. If they see their parents eating calmly at the table and putting their utensils down gently, they are more likely to do the same.

  2. Establish specific mealtime rules: Setting specific mealtime rules such as "keep your food on the plate or on the highchair" can help the baby understand that throwing food on the floor is not an acceptable behavior.

  3. Reduce portion sizes: If the baby is given a smaller amount of food, there is less to throw on the floor, making the clean-up process more efficient.

  4. Use a bib: A bib-catcher can be useful in collecting dropped food before it reaches the floor. Also using non-slip plates can help avoid baby from tilting the plate to the floor either by mistake or intentional.

  5. Avoid laughing: When baby give you cute smile after throwing the food on the floor, laughing or smile back gives the baby the idea it was funny and will do it again.

  6. Firm "NO": Speaking with a firm voice to the baby (not shouting) gives the baby the understanding about the different tune of when you are serious or playing.

  7. Special place for unwanted food: Showing your baby a place they can put any unwanted food (ex. broccoli), whenever they drop the food, pick it up and put it in that place, repeatedly doing that, your baby will model it.

  8. "All done" and clean up: Most of the time when baby starts throwing food on the floor, they are full and switch to play time. Repeatedly saying "All done!", and clean up immediately whenever your baby drops the food gives them the idea that you will take the food away from them assuming they are full.

  9. Be patient: This is the most important tip, because babies are still learning and go through stages of development. This messy habit will likely be over soon.

Note that food-throwing behavior is not necessarily a sign of a picky eater. It may also occur if a baby is full, bored, or not interested in their food. Creating a routine around mealtimes and limiting distractions during feeding will help to manage and discourage this behavior.

Remember, when it comes to parenting, Patience is your number one virtue.

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