34 answers

How Do I Stop My Toddler from Throwing Food on the Floor During Mealtime?

My daughter is 15 months old and has a habit of throwing her food to the floor during every meal. My husband and I say "no" and "please give to mama/dada". We've limited the amount of food on her tray, but that doesn't seem to matter. She throws food she likes and food she doesn't like. We even have her pick up the food off the floor and put it in the trash-which she happily does. But nothing is working to get her to stop. She will look at us, hear us and then very deliberately drop/throw another piece of food on the floor. Its very frustrating and I'm looking for advice on how to help her with this problem. I wonder how appropriate it is to "discipline" her when she is only 15 months old. I would appreciate any advice you have to offer!

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Featured Answers

As annoying as it is - IGNORE IT. Toddlers at this age & stage are seeking out response. SHe's not deliberately trying to make you mad, she sees that she does something and you respond with full attention. She'll stop eventually.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi,
I would actually try to ignore or distract her. My son does the same thing, and I'm guessing that they just enjoy testing themselves and us. Saying 'no' or anything negative might just tempt her to continue.

My two cents...:)

S.

She is doing this for the reaction...cause and effect...she doesn't want to make you angry but she enjoys knowing what will happen when she does certain things...it's a phase and just keep saying no or feed her until she listens but it will stop. As far as discipline for a toddler...as in all, the punishiment should fit the crime...tell her stop throwing food or she is all done...if she throws more food, get her out of her chair, say "all done" and go about the clean up routine...after a couple times, she'll get it...my son was 12 months when we moved in with my in-laws..they have a spiral staircase that can't be gated off...everytime he would start to climb the stairs we would pick him up, say no and put him in the pack-n-play...no yelling or explainations needed...he caught on, for awhile it was a game, he'd run over there to see what would happen but after about a week or so he left the steps alone...now he is 20months and the temptation gets to him every once in awhile but for the most part he knows not to touch and when he does he knows where he is going... goodluck!

More Answers

Taking the food away, and waiting 20 minutes or so before returning it or just ending mealtime altogether is the best solution. My youngest son was a chronic food thrower, but since I've taken this approach it has almost stopped completely. I did have to convince myself that doing this was not depriving him of enough to eat. But after a few meals I finally figured out that if he throws food at the beginning of mealtime he's not very hungry, and if it's well into mealtime, he's usually had enough. When kids are hungry they will eat.

1 mom found this helpful

As annoying as it is - IGNORE IT. Toddlers at this age & stage are seeking out response. SHe's not deliberately trying to make you mad, she sees that she does something and you respond with full attention. She'll stop eventually.

1 mom found this helpful

But a cheap plastic tablecloth to use as a drop cloth and forget it. When a toddler does something that ALL toddlers do, and have since forever, think about how you can use it as a learning experience, rather than teaching her not to do it. "Up, down, splash, wet, mop, wash, throw, far, near", etc etc etc. I promise you she will not still be doing this on her wedding day!Let her develop the way nature intended and ENJOY her. Laugh a little.
Sue S

1 mom found this helpful

At her age she really shouldn't be disciplined. I'd start putting just one item on her tray and if she throws it instead of eating it, give the next one to her saying something like 'this is for your mouth and tummy. can you put it in your mouth?' If she starts to throw it, grab her hand and take it away. Start all over. Pretty soon she'll catch on.

1 mom found this helpful

It's all about positive discipline. When she's about to throw something on the floor say"No, food stays on your tray/table" then take her hand and have her put the food on the tray, the second the food touches the tray yell"hurray!!" and make a really big deal of it. Keep doing it every time,until she doesn't need your hand to guide her hand to do it. while doing this , if she drops a piece on the floor, ignore it. She's playing a game with you. She gets attention from both you and your husband when she does it and sometimes she even gets to play with the garbage can- how exciting. Sometimes you have to step back and look at the problem through their eyes- she doesn't know right from wrong, she knows attention, bad or good. So , make her want the good kind of attention, positive feedback and then she'll do things to get it.This works with everything. Don't make a big deal out of the bad stuff, tell them it's wrong but then show them the "right" thing and praise, praise, praise it and they'll do it.
Good luck.

Yes, it is appropriate to discipline her at this age. I have 10 month old twin boys and at meal time one of them likes to trash about in his high chair. I sternly tell him "NO" and I refuse to give him his food while he's doing that. He does stop and then eat. You can also try putting the TV on (her favorite show, of course). but be firm about scolding her about throwing food on the floor. when she does it, just say "NO" to her. If you catch her in the act, say NO a bit louder and firmly so that she knows this is not a play tone. My boys certainly know the difference between a play tone and a scolding tone at 10 months old. You must take control now or lose it forever.

Enjoy your beautiful baby girl.

My daughter did something very similar around the same age. We would joke about it at the table, "Yup, gravity still works." It is just a phase. Keep on doing what you are doing and she will eventually hit a point where she will eat and mimic what the adults do at the table rather than throwing. Children are learning and developing so much at this age; skills and behavior seems to change almost weekly around her age.

Dear A.,
It is NEVER too early to start disciplining children. When they do something wrong, take action. Once you have said "No", my advice would be to slap her hand. I'm not suggesting that you hurt her, but make her aware that you mean what you say. She will quickly learn that there is a consequence to her actions. She is too young for lengthy explanations but she will realize that NO means "don't do that". Two to three times and she will quit throwing food; and I say 2 -3 times because she will test you to see if you remain true to your word. At this age, it is similar to training a dog or a horse. Excuse my analogy, but animals will never understand more than a few words, so other means of discipline are necessary like a slap on the nose or a crack of the whip. It's imperative to make them understand.
We went through a similar thing with our daughter at the same age. She had an attraction to electrical sockets, trying to poke them with her fingers - too dangerous. At home we had the plastic covers, but my fear was if we were out somewhere where they were not covered. She had to learn at home. Each time she would go to touch one, I would say No. If she didn't stop I slapped her hand. After a few times, she would walk to one and look to see if I was watching. When she saw me, she walked away. Then I decided to hide to see what she would do. Of course, her hand reached for the socket, and I said crisply, "No". She pulled her hand away, and that was the end of her attraction to electrical sockets.
It may be old-fashioned, but it works.
W.

A.,

Just ignore her and leave the food. You could take the food away she is probably not hungry anymore. The less attention you pay to this the better.

C.
MOM of 4 HELPING MOMS WORK FROM HOME

http://www.stayinhomeandlovinit.com/Col

Hi A..
I read all your responses, and while I agree that yes, she is trying this out and will most likely grow out of it...hopefully sooner than later...I also think that we need to teach our kids what is acceptable behavior and what is not. (ha. that sentence reminded me of super nanny):)

Anyway, while it's fine to let her experiment at home and put some kind of table cloth under her highchair, I'm sure you still want to go out to eat occasionally or visit someone for lunch or dinner and you can't have her doing that everywhere. I don't know if you've tried yet, but what if when you first set down her plate say something like, we're going to eat our food nicely now. Food goes in your mouth not on the floor. Then the first time she does it give her a firm warning not to do it and warn that you will take her plate away. Then if she does it again take the plate away. I am a firm believer that babies that age understand much more than we give them credit for. Then you can give it back with a warning...you get what I'm saying I'm sure.

My youngest son (now 2) was doing the same thing and besides what I suggested my cousin who is a interpreter for the deaf showed him how to say "all done" in sign language. He really got the hang of that and LOVED doing it and he still does it sometimes. Then you know that when the playing with food starts she may be finished and she'll have a way to tell you that without the food throwing. i think toddlers LOVE being able to communicate and being understood, so maybe try that.

Good luck. :)

She is only 15 months old - she isn't doing it to make you angry. She is learning cause & effect. All 1 year old babies do this.

Usually when the food flinging starts it usually means baby is done. Take the food away, clean her up and send her off to play. Give her something to play with that offers her cause & effect results.

This behavior will stop when, and only when, she is satisfied with what she is trying to learn. She will then move on to throwing objects around the house - so beware.

Disciplining is inappropriate at this age and futile. Redirecting her attention will get the best results.

A.

I am a grandmother raising a grandaughter that is 12 now but I remember my son use to throw his food. I would give her only one little piece at a time like you are giving her maybe 2 or 3 cherrios. at this age I think she thinks it ia a game like throwing a toy and you picking it up.I would also see if you can put her high chair up to the table without the tray.OF course when she doesn't throw the food give her alot of praise so she can see you are pleased.

If you freak out every time she throws food on the floor, she's likely to do it again and again. She loves to see your reaction. She may also be experimenting with gravity which is totally natural. The best thing to do is to ignore it and then she may actually stop. The next year will be filled with things like that. You can either continue screaming at her and constantly giving her time outs or simply ignore the behavior and lead a more calm existence with her. Most probably, she does not understand discipline at this age.

What I have done with my daughter when she played that game was warn her and when she did it a second time the meal was over. Sounds mean but she will stop and you can feed her again in a half hour or so. Just be consistent until she changes the behavior.

Hi A.,
My son did the same thing. We ended up taking away his food, like we would do for anything that he threw. We told him that food is not a toy. When he would begin throwing food, that meant usually meant that he was done eating, but did not know how to say it. If he insisted that he was still eating, we would set in front of him, but as soon as he began throwing it again, we would take it away and repeat that food is not a toy and that we think he is all done for now.
Whatever you decide to do, make a firm decision and stick with it.
Good Luck
Nik

Ignoring it is really the way to go. She is probably doing it partially because that is what toddlers do and now she knows she will get a response/attention for doing it. Attention is often a goal for little ones and it's easy to inadvertently encourage bad behavior by giving attention for it. I have a 16 month old and I usually just take away what's left on the tray and take him out of the high chair when he starts chucking everything on the floor. It usually happens near to when he's done anyway. Hope that helps.

L. (mom to Lucy 4 and Henry 16 mos)

Hi,
I would actually try to ignore or distract her. My son does the same thing, and I'm guessing that they just enjoy testing themselves and us. Saying 'no' or anything negative might just tempt her to continue.

My two cents...:)

S.

Hi,

I just went through this. First of all, it's a stage they all go through (which I am sure you know). We taught my daughter to say "all done" as soon as the food throwing started. We would immediately take the food away and repeat to her "all done". It took a little while but she got it. If she started in the beginning of the meal (which it still does on occasion, we don't acknowledge it at all) if we ignore it (don't pick it up etc.) she loses interest quickly and continues to eat. It hasn't completely stopped but it helped tremendously.

Good luck!
M.

Hi! I almost want to suggest ignoring what she does because I feel as if she knows this is getting to you and it has become somewhat of a game to her. Hope it works! Good luck.

Yes, I remember this one well! I learned a life-altering lesson from my friend's boyfriend. He simply said ignore. Pretend you don't even see her throwing her food and she'll stop. It worked! It only took one day of ignoring it and she never threw her food again. This is proof that kids will do anything for attention, negative or positive especially when trapped in a high chair!

I used that "ignore" tactic many times and it works. I never had temper tantrum issues. I ignored the first one. It totally goes against most people's upbringing where we as parents should be "in control" of our children or we feel the need to interfere and fix things. I looked at is being in control using a smarter technique than cajoling or punishing and going crazy. There's actually a whole book written about this in German. You need to be 100% firm with yourself to not give in though because if you do the ignore tactic and then give in and yell or something, you have lost and it can't work well in the future if they know they can eventually break you down.

Would be interested to hear your results if you try this. You might also enjoy reading The Continuum Concept. Excellent book about parenting based on a South American Indian tribe. I raised my daughter mostly like this and am very pleased with the results now that she's a teen.

S. Hoehner
www.sharethecause.com/detoxqueen

Hi A., What you are going through seems to be a normal thing for kids in this generation. When my children were little, I fed them. I didn't put food on their plates for them to eat until they understood what they really are suppose to do with it. I'm not knocking this generation because it's a wonderful one. My sister-in-law never fed her children once they reached an age that they could possibly feed themselves. She always said she didn't understand why my kids didn't throw their food.
BUT...if you are reacting to her...she is loving it. I once went to a child rearing class and the person running the class made a comment and it has, to this day, stuck in my mind. She said that children love reactions. Good or bad, happy or sad. If you think about it, when someone is having a bad day or reacting to some
stimulus around them in an aggravated way...they look funny. When your child sees you behave in that way..they are getting a charge out of it. The best thing to do is ignore as much of her negative behavior as is possible. She will learn how to eat right and then move on to the next thing that will drive you crazy again. Now is the easy time in raising your children. They are a joy but disciplining your child at any age is good. You do it with love and kindness. Just keep your cool and have them do things the way you want. Taking food or other things away won't hurt them. (To an extent)
If they get hungry enough because more food is ending up on the floor...when they get hungry it will find it's way to their mouth. (You could try taking her food away when she does throw it on the ground and don't feed her. If she reacts badly take her out of her highchair and put her in another room.) You know there's so much advice that people can give you but you know your child and since you are a full time working Mom it could all be her testing you since you aren't around all the time. What does she do when the babysitter is watching her when it comes to her food? Good luck it will all change soon. It's so worth it in the long realm of life. D.

Even at the ripe young age of 15 months, kids know exactly what they are doing. To her its a fun game and she knows no matter what, she'll keep getting the food. I say give her a "very" small amount of her favorite. If it goes on the floor, thats it, dont give her anymore. She won't starve. She'll finally realize its not a game and if she wants to eat she has to do what Mom and Dad say. Good luck!

GET A DOG:0)!!! Only kidding but it works for us. Our oldest (now 7) was an all you can drop and throw buffet for our 2 dogs and now our 21 month old is the same thing for the one dog we now have. Anyway as for discipline she is not to young to start discipline with. We try to teach our youngest the proper way to behave when in restaurants and when she starts throwing food we take it away from her. We also will take a hold of her hand and give it a tap with 2 fingures and make her let go of the handful that was just going to get hurled. It usually makes her let go and then change the topic. You may have to hand feed her a few meals and then give her very small portions to start again with feeding herself. A bite or two at a time might be all that can be given on her plate. Too much at one time may seem overwelming and throwing it is her way to cut that feeling back. Good Luck and remember "This too shall pass!!!"

A., goo luck with that. i have a set of 20 month old twins that do this everyday, every meal! i'll be reading the responses!

You just make dinner time a serious time,

when she starts throwing, say NO firmly
and explain if she does it again dinner time will end,

and when she throws it, you take away her plate and end dinner time,

eventually she gets the picture,

M

When my daughter throws food I remove the food from her reach and tell her that we don't throw food. Then I either feed her myself or it's the end of mealtime (the food throwing usually signified that she wasn't very hungry anyway). She's 20 months now and rarely throws food anymore.

She is doing this for the reaction...cause and effect...she doesn't want to make you angry but she enjoys knowing what will happen when she does certain things...it's a phase and just keep saying no or feed her until she listens but it will stop. As far as discipline for a toddler...as in all, the punishiment should fit the crime...tell her stop throwing food or she is all done...if she throws more food, get her out of her chair, say "all done" and go about the clean up routine...after a couple times, she'll get it...my son was 12 months when we moved in with my in-laws..they have a spiral staircase that can't be gated off...everytime he would start to climb the stairs we would pick him up, say no and put him in the pack-n-play...no yelling or explainations needed...he caught on, for awhile it was a game, he'd run over there to see what would happen but after about a week or so he left the steps alone...now he is 20months and the temptation gets to him every once in awhile but for the most part he knows not to touch and when he does he knows where he is going... goodluck!

We have similar problem in our home with our 17 month old. Recently I have started serving his meals on a plate instead of just on his tray and he has responded well to this. He enjoys picking his food up until he can see the picture on the bottom of the plate and he seems to sense that this is the more civilized way to eat! Give it a try! Of course be prepared for the plate and all of the food to end up on the floor at some point!

Hi A.,
My son does this too; (24 months) but a little less than he used to. When he does throw food, I look at him and ask..."all done?" then I promptly take him down from his high-chair (even if he hasn't eaten a bite of food.) I wait a while (30 minutes) then try again. Usually at this point he is good and hungry and will actually eat. I just refuse to play the game he is trying to play. It has worked for us!
Good luck!

This is a very normal, developmental behavior that your daughter is exhibiting. Children need to be allowed to play with their food because they need to get used to it in their hands before they can accept it in their mouths. This becomes important as you introduce new foods. Throwing food, and anything else for that matter, on the floor is a game they play at this stage. They are learning cause and effect. Throw something on the floor, watch Mommy pick it up. It can be so frustrating, especially the mess and the wasted food, but discipline isn't appropriate, in my opinion. Giving small amounts at a time and having her help pick up is great, as long as it is down as a game, but honestly, I think it is something we just have to put up with at this stage. She'll grow out of it. I think my daughter stopped by 2, and my 20 month old still does it.

A.

Hi A.,

The only way I know of getting her to stop throwing food on the floor is to feed her yourself. Everytime she throws food on the floor take her plate away and feed her yourself until she gets the idea. Have her clean up when she throws it. She'll get the connection if you talk to her while you are going threw the process.

My daughter started letting her little ones feed themselves at a young age and they did the same thing. I thought she was just creating more work for herself because when she was little I fed her until she was about 2 years old. By that age they don't make such big messes at the table. Of course I would let her do finger foods but sit down meals at the table I controled the plate.
Good luck. J.

Get a dog! When my 11 month old throws her food it never actually touches the floor! :-)

Ignore it. She is looking for attention and she's getting it, all be it negative attention. You could also just end dinner time right then and there. Both worked for my son, now 2 1/2.

Hi A.,

Sorry to say I am laughing right now, but I guess you don't feel like it, but once you pass a stage and look back you can find the humor in it all. The good news is you don't need to do anything. Its a developmental stage that she is supposed to go through, just ask your pediatrician or any other Mommy. She will stop all on her own without any suggestions from you. Actually it may stop sooner the less negative attention you bring to it. Once I found out I added things like like 'good throw' which of course days before I would never have imagined saying. Next up is her saying 'no' to everything, again just a developmental stage, she's not actually meaning what we mean to say 'no'. My daughter is now 32 months and still will give a sly little 'no', then quickly add "I do want that". I used to place those big plastic big bird and elmo mats on the floor to catch the food. This is why they sell them since every single kid does this. I wish I had a dog at the time, but the mat worked just as well to roll up and toss out the crumbs, food, etc into the garbage.

Good luck and she sounds just delightful. Try to laugh at everything and see if she should be doing something from a kids developmental point of view first, then place on the adult parent hat later. I know once I did this, everything really became quite great, I worried less and enjoyed my time with her. At her age now, its so great you can't believe it. Listens, tells you what she wants, sings, dances, so much fun, its just around the corner.

S.

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