Mealtimes are tough for parents. They want to have a peaceful mealtime with less cleaning later, and then finally, hit the bed after putting the baby to sleep.
But, sometimes a toddler has different plans. He wants his parents to have a little workout session after mealtime i.e. to clean the food that he throws during meals.
Mealtimes are no different from playtime for the kids. Only the location and the things are different. A toddler loves to explore and experiment with his food. However, all this experimentation and throwing food can become tough for parents to clean.
If you are one of the parents who is sailing in such a boat and looking for tips and tricks to stop a toddler throwing food, then don’t worry. We have got that in store for you. But before we move on to that, let us first understand why toddlers throw food at meals?
Why Do Babies And Toddlers Throw Food While Having Their Meals?
When a baby reaches the age of 8 months, he gets quite familiar with his environment and wants to explore more of it. For this purpose, he will try to get his hands on everything. Food is no exception to him when it comes to satiate his curiosity.
1. It’s Exciting For Them
The number one reason why kids persistently throw food at mealtime is that they find it exciting. They observe the phenomenon of cause and effect. The excitement is further heightened up if the dropped food is devoured by pet dogs or cats.
2. They Communicate This Way
Action speaks louder than words. If your baby throws food it could be more than just excitement. He might be communicating a message to you. A baby can throw food because he is full and doesn’t want to eat more. He can also throw food if he doesn’t like it, or if he doesn’t want to sit on the high chair.
If his diapers need changing, or if he is not sitting comfortably, then this too can incite him to throw food.
3. They Are Seeking Attention
The toddlers love to be in the limelight. They would do something repetitively if they get a reaction for that, either positive or negative. If they get a big reaction every time they throw the food, then they would persist in the same behavior to get the attention.
4. It’s Their Defensive Mechanism
The majority of the parents try to make the baby finish the food that they have given him. Many times the baby is not hungry and he is forced to eat. Or sometimes, he has eaten enough but, still, parents stuff him with food, and this is the one of the common mistakes that parents make.
When this behavior of parents continues, the babies will throw the food as their defensive mechanism if he is forced or made to eat forcefully.
Having understood the reasons for a toddler throwing food at meals, let us now move towards its solution.
Below are 10 genius tricks to stop your toddler from throwing food at meals:
10 Genius Tricks To Stop Your Toddler From Throwing Food At Meals
1. Small Serving Size
A toddler needs 25% of what an adult eats. This means that he needs a small serving size to satiate his hunger. Many parents give large servings of food to their babies, forgetting the fact that they don’t eat as much as we do.
Once they are full, they play with the food that is left and throw it for fun. The simple trick to stop a toddler from throwing food and to discipline him is to give him a small portion. You can easily refill his bowl or plate if he needs to eat more.
By giving smaller portion sizes, the baby won’t be having enough food on his plate to eat and throw. He can have one choice, and if he is hungry then there are thin chances of him throwing food.
2. Let Your Toddler Choose
How will you feel if every day someone else chooses what you are going to eat? Not good, right? Sometimes babies feel that too. They might not want to eat the food that you are serving and they will toss it away.
To avoid this and to keep your babies happy, you can offer them two options to select from. For instance, you can ask them if they’ll like to have apple slices or a banana. When a toddler will select what he wants to eat then he is not going to throw it away and will enjoy his food happily.
3. Make Them Use An ‘All Done Bowl’
Once the baby is full, and if his plate still has food, then you can instruct him to use an ‘all done bowl’ to put all his extra food in it.
This will not only save the food but will also keep the baby busy in transferring his food from the plate to the bowl. At first, they might face difficulty and things will get messy. However, let him do it on their own.
This simple trick to stop a toddler from throwing food at the meal also has many other benefits. It will improve your baby’s hand and eye coordination, increase his attention span, and will also strengthen his fine motor skills.
Give him different colored bowls to keep him excited or the bowls that have his favorite characters printed on them.
4. Look For Clues
To stop your child from throwing food you first have to understand the reason why he is doing it in the first place. Is it because he is not feeling well? Or is he uncomfortable in the high chair? Or maybe because he doesn’t like the food.
If your child starts throwing the food, then before reacting check if he is alright and if he is enjoying the food. As a caretaker, it will be easier for you to pick the cue that either the baby is enjoying the food or not.
If he is not enjoying the food, then you can counsel him, sit with him, or even eat together with him. This will surely help.
5. Have A Family Mealtime
When the cats are away, the mice will play. Does this ring a bell? Your toddler will surely pull a trick or two when he is alone and you are not around.
If your toddler throws food when you are not around, then solve this problem by having a mealtime together.
Don’t let the babies have mealtime alone. Include your mischievous angels in the family mealtime. It will keep him engaged with other family members and he probably won’t get a chance to throw the food.
Make sure that you give them your undivided attention and ask the other members to do the same. It will be easy to monitor their behavior.
Eating alone can be boring for the toddlers, let them bond with other family members during mealtime.
6. Establish Routines
Babies love it when they have a routine. It helps them to understand and prepare for the next thing. If your toddler is behaving differently at mealtimes, then you may need to check their routine and figure out what the problem is and how it can be rectified?
For instance, if your baby has playtime before mealtime then he might not want to eat and continue playing. Or if they’re sleepy and you are making him eat, then there are increased chances of him throwing the food.
Once you have spotted the problem in their routine, then you have to fix it to make them stop throwing food. It will take time, but this problem will be gone for good in the long run.
7. Don’t Keep The Pets In The Same Room
If you have four-legged pets at home, then try to keep them in different rooms during mealtime. Your toddler will be very generous to satiate the hunger of their furry friends instead of his.
When a toddler drops the food and the pets eat it, this can be a very exciting moment for the toddlers. Therefore, keep the pets in a different room so that your baby finishes his meal and doesn’t feed the pets.
If the pets are not around then he will feed himself. You don’t want the pets to be eating the food you prepared with so much love for your little one, do you?
8. Get A Placemat
Getting a placemat will not only stop your child to throw his plate, glass, spoon, etc. but it will also help him to learn table manners and how to keep the cutlery on the table.
There are many placemats printable available on the internet. Take a print, get it laminated, and stick it on the tray of your baby’s high chair or the table.
Show your baby where to keep the plate, glass, and spoon as printed on the placemat. It will keep your baby engaged in placing his feeding items in the right places. He will not throw away the utensil that he has set up with so much concentration.
9. Control Your Reactions
Cleaning the mess can surely be tiring, especially when you have no energy left to do that. Mothers scream at the top of their voices if they catch their toddlers throwing food. Remember, your baby is not an adult, he will not understand why it’s wrong to throw food. He does it because he enjoys it. If you will give him an intense reaction, he might like the attention and will continue to bug you with the same thing again.
Instead of screaming at them or getting violent, try to give them strong eye contact. When they pick up their food intending to throw it, just maintain eye contact with them for a few seconds and shake your head. Your baby will understand that he is watched by you.
Also, try to ignore your toddler altogether sometimes when he throws the food. Often, when a toddler doesn’t get a reaction, he will stop doing it and will try to figure out something else to infuriate the parents.
Stay calm and do not scream at them. Just focus on your meal, take a few deep breaths and understand that this irritating phase of your baby will also pass away. Shouting at them or not letting them eat by themselves may make them fussy during mealtimes.
10. End The Mealtime
This trick should be your last option after you have tried all the above-listed tricks to stop your toddler from throwing food and discipline him.
This can be difficult for the parents, especially if their babies have a small appetite. When a toddler throws his food or does everything else, except for eating it, then ends the mealtime for the baby.
The reason behind this trick is that your toddler may not be hungry and to get rid of eating, he will toss away his food. Next time, if this happens simply ask your toddler if he wants to eat or play? If he wants to play and doesn’t want to eat then let him go.
Offer them food after 30-40 minutes. They will eat the food once they are hungry or need the energy to continue playing. Don’t force them to eat when they’re not hungry.
Instead, take a note of when they are the hungriest and then make them eat at that time.
Winding It up...
It is a big achievement for parents if their babies eat 10-20% of what’s on their plate. The remaining amount is fed to the high chair, floor, table cloth, and sometimes to pet. This can test the patience of the parents and it might become difficult for them to keep their minds cool.
Losing your patience, or getting angry would be like fueling a fire. Take a deep breath, talk to your baby, make them understand the table rules, and counsel them in the friendliest way.
Remember, they will soon outgrow this phase. The stains on the wall, carpet, and floor can be cleaned, but the memories with your child always leave an imprint on your heart. Make sure you have beautiful memories to cherish...