Lately I’ve been hearing the same thing from parent after parent….”My toddler/2/3 won’t stop throwing his food. I put him in the high chair to eat and almost immediately the food is flying. And the best part is, when I say ‘no throw,’ he laughs!”
Here are just a few ideas that can be helpful:
Give your child 2 choices of foods. Sometimes food throwing is related to being unhappy with what is being served. It’s not necessary to make meal after meal until you find one your child will consume, but asking for their input before the meal (and even asking them to help prepare it as they get older), increases the chances that your little launcher will eat her food instead of throwing it.
- Give your child a place to put the food they don’t want. This is a positive alternative. Your child can put the piece they don’t like into a bowl, or on the side of their tray and move on to another piece. Sometimes, throwing food is about having control. Giving your child instructions about what they CAN do, rather than only what they can’t do, is often helpful.
- Touch base with your pediatrician. Find out whether your pediatrician is concerned about your child’s height or weight, if not, don’t engage in the food battle. Young children listen to their bodies! As adults that can be difficult for us to understand. It hits “lunch time” and we eat, without tuning in to our bodies. Young children won’t eat if they aren’t hungry. Often parents take children out of their high chairs in anger and frustration. This doesn’t teach children anything, and can start a pattern where a child is simply looking for a reaction from you, positive or negative. Rather, if your child continues to throw food (after you’ve tried choices and positive alternatives) you can say, “When you throw food it’s telling me that you aren’t hungry.” They might respond by eating, saying “no hungry,” staring at you in shock that they haven’t gotten the reaction they expected, or they will throw food again. In the last case, calmly take them out of the high chair and repeat that throwing food told you they weren’t hungry.
- Note: Know your child. Some children have difficulty with foods that have different textures and consistencies. If you are noticing patterns of avoidance in your child because of texture or consistency, it is worth investigating further.
Post Script: It should also be noted that humor can be helpful when working on this and other behavioral issues with young children. Stay tuned for a post focusing on how to use humor as a technique.
empowered parents, happy families.