My Baby Is Throwing Food – What Do I Do?


toddler throwing food

We want our kids to develop independence, but how do you deal with throwing food at the dinner table? Your child’s age and the individual situation will dictate the best decision, but you can definitely deal with this behavior in a positive way that works. Here are some ideas to get started.

The Rejects Bowl

Provide a small bowl or saucer for a young child to place unwanted food. Alternatively, you can teach them to hand it to you. The point is to give them a positive way to deal with the issue of not wanting to eat something

Pace it

Give small amounts of food at a time. For some reason, this works. It could be that a lot of food overwhelms little ones or that limiting the amount simply limits the potential mess.

Table Signs

Teach a preverbal child the signs for “all done,” “more,” “please,” and anything else relevant to your family’s dinner table. This allows them to communicate with you, hopefully instead of throwing food.

End the Meal

Don’t be afraid to end a meal. I promise your child won’t starve. If you feel uncomfortable with this, I recommend providing a small snack later on as opposed to giving a second chance. It’s important not to end the meal in anger or using your “scary voice.” Keep an upbeat spirit, saying something like, “Uh oh! Dinner is over!” as you clear the plates and quickly move on.

Humorously, some toddlers will learn to drop a piece of food to signal that they’re done when you use this approach. If this happens, also model what they should say instead, “Say: ‘Mommy I’m all done!’” It will soon click.

Clean Up

Have the child pick up the food or utensil and wipe up any mess. You can do this after ending the meal or do it in the moment and return to the meal. Cleaning up together counts too. The point is to have the child connect making a mess with cleaning it up. This should not be a power struggle.

Address Frustration

When a baby or toddler throws food in clear frustration, you’ll want to do things a little differently. Take her away from the table and do a Time In: assist her in calming down in a loving way. If you don’t know what’s wrong, find out once she’s calm. Decide how to address the problem. If the food was too hot, you might make sure it’s cool and test the first few bites. If it was difficult to get on the fork, maybe you’ll provide a spoon or preload the fork. In these cases, it’s fair to fix the problem and try again. It’s reasonable to have your little one help clean up, but it’s also fine to skip that.

Almost all babies will go through a few phases where they chuck their food, but that doesn’t mean you just have to stand by with macaroni in your hair and wait for it to pass. I’m confident that some combination of these ideas will help you get through it!



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