How to Deal with Throwing Food (and Cups, Plates, Utensils, etc) on the Floor

Happy child.{Guest post on the Love Child Organics blog: } A parent asked the following question: “How to deal with throwing food and cups on the floor”.  Almost every child goes through a stage where they throw onto the floor anything within reach from their highchair – food, plates, bowls, cups, utensils, etc.

The good news is that you can nip this behaviour in the bud and make it disappear from your mealtime and snacktime routines.

The bad news is that sometimes, inadvertently, you (and other adults) can be fuelling this behaviour.

The secret is to figure out what’s causing your little one to throw food and address the root cause.

Kids throw food for a number of reasons. Here are the 3 most common that I’ve experienced in my years of working with families. And, here’s how to get your child to stop:

[Note that the following are all assuming that your child is intentionally throwing items on the floor. Unintentionally knocking things over as a result of being clumsy and inefficient at self-feeding is normal and expected. Accept your child’s messiness as a part of learning the tricky skills of self-feeding.]

  1.  Cause: It creates a strong reaction from you. Toddlers LOVE to cause something to happen. I could go as far as saying that they’re obsessed with creating a reaction. This is why it’s so exciting to push the elevator button – because little ol’ me made the elevator move! If throwing food causes you to react – whether it’s to pick their cup back up off the floor, scold your child, etc, they’re relishing their power to make you do something. As the saying goes, negative attention is still attention. Solution: Ignore the behaviour. Respond with a simple: “we don’t throw food on the floor.” And, don’t give them back their items that they’ve dropped. They may respond with a tantrum or meltdown this time. But they’ll quickly learn to keep things that they want to eat on their tray and the throwing food on the floor will stop.
  2.  Cause: The dog eats it. This is similar to #1. Toddlers find it hilarious to feed the dog. Solution: Keep your dog out of the eating area. Either train your dog to lie outside the room during meal and snack times, or use a baby gate to block their access. Keeping the dog out of the room is the only solution that I’ve ever found to this problem. I’ve never found a way to get kids to stop enjoying “sharing” their food with their canine partners in crime J
  3.  Cause: It’s the only way that you’ll “hear” them say “I’m full”. I see this again and again. Well-meaning parents won’t accept that their child has eaten enough at a particular meal or snack. They feel that their child needs to eat more (usually due to concern that they aren’t meeting their nutrition needs). So even though their child is giving clear signals, either using words, sign language, or body signals, parents keep pushing their child to eat more. Kids keep escalate their “I’m full” signals until they throw the food on the floor. Throwing food on the floor usually causes their parents to finally allow them to stop eating. As a result the meal is now over and both adults and kids are equally upset. Solution: Trust your child to know when they’re satisfied. Babies are born knowing when they’re hungry and when they’re satisfied.  Allow your child to choose how much to eat at each occasion.  It’s normal for kids to eat a lot some days and very little on other days. You’ll make sure that your child is getting the nutrition that they need by offering foods at about 5 – 6 meals and snacks each day. And, watching their progress on their growth charts. Respect and trust your child in this way. The result is that meals will end with everyone in a good mood (and with less mess to clean up).

Check out my picky eating book for more successful toddler nutrition tips.