“Let the kids do it themselves” is the motto. But what if that means food is mostly thrown through the air and you get to scrape the mush off the wall and floor at the end of mealtimes?
When little ones throw food, it can be stressful and annoying for parents. As if you didn’t already have your hands full anyway, the cleaning, tidying up afterwards, and washing doesn’t seem to end. But throwing food is a normal part of child development.
Grabbing and dropping objects is a skill all babies learn and thoroughly test. How does a piece of banana, a spoonful of yoghurt, or a slice of bread behave when you throw it on the ground from height x?
We’ve put together a few tips for you on how best to respond to food throwing.
Stay calm, even if it’s sometimes difficult. Pick up the food from the floor and repeat over and over again: “food doesn’t belong on the floor, if you don’t want to eat it you can…”
A possible alternative is to put the food on the edge of the plate. However, for many children this is still too close, so the “No thanks bowl” can help. Everything the child throws on the floor or doesn’t want to eat goes into the “No thanks bowl”. Little ones learn that they don’t have to eat everything that’s on the plate and put unwanted things in the “No thanks bowl” themselves. With very young children, it can also help to hold out a hand and say, “if you don’t want to eat this, you can give it to me.” So, when the child throws something, you can put your hand under the child’s hand and remind them that we don’t throw food.
Some children are overwhelmed with a full plate. Less is often more. If the child repeatedly throws food on the floor, set the plate aside and place bite-sized portions in front of the child. If the small portions end up on the floor, put the food out of reach and offer to feed it to them. If this is also refused, the child is probably simply not hungry (anymore).
Finally, a few QUICK TIPS:• Establish a setup that makes post-meal cleaning easier. For example, a mat on the floor, a handheld vacuum cleaner, or a dog (just kidding ;-).• Eat together as often as possible. Children learn by watching, so they can observe that no-one else in the family is throwing food.• Create a positive atmosphere at the dining table. Even if you’re thinking about scrubbing the highchair from top to bottom again, stay cool, enjoy the food and enjoy your baby. This phase will also pass faster than you think.