Is Your Baby or Toddler Throwing Food?
The Why and How to Deal

Ilona Martin, MA, MS, RD, CDN, CNSC

Is your kid throwing food and you don’t know what to do? We’ve been there. Read on for some tips and tricks to take on your little food thrower. Spoiler: It may or may not be a sign of picky eating.

Why does my baby throw food?

If your baby is still young, around 6-9 months, food throwing may not be fully intentional. Babies of this age still have a lot of work to do learning how to coordinate their movements. From 9-12 months, babies are learning about gravity and what happens when objects disappear. Moreover, it’s fun to see what happens when you throw food to the side!

Why is my toddler throwing food?

Older children, starting around 18 months, throw food for a variety of reasons. First, they might not be hungry. Second, it’s an appropriate developmental stage during which children are exploring food using all their senses, including touch. Third, because they can! Fourth, they may be trying to get your attention. Last, they want to test the limits (especially if they’re two year olds!).

How can I prevent it?

  • Pay attention and connect to your child during meal and snack times. Is your toddler throwing food early on in the meal? Then your child is playing instead of eating. Take a look at the timing of meals and snacks and readjust the schedule to make sure they’re truly hungry. 
  • Is your toddler throwing food towards the end of a meal? Try to say something to the effect of “when you throw food on the floor, it tells me that you’re all done” and end the meal. Don’t let meals drag on for more than 30 minutes, because your child will get bored and antsy, and let’s face it, throwing food is entertaining!
  • Do not give the action of throwing any attention, positive or negative — laughing or yelling will make them want to do it more. Stay calm!
  • Remember, don’t return thrown food or utensils to the tray or table after it has touched the floor.

But it’s so messy!

True. Be prepared! For example, you can place a garbage bag or washable mat under your child’s high chair like this one. 

What about pets?

Next, let’s talk about dogs that LOVE mealtime. If you have a pet at home, you may need to relocate him to the other room or outside during mealtime. There are 2 reasons here. First, for your furry friend’s own safety in not consuming too many table scraps. Second, to remove the thrill of a dog chasing a meatball. Remember, messy eating in general is just part of a child’s exploration of food. And that is a good thing!

When will this phase end?

Never. Just kidding, luckily most toddlers stop the majority of their food throwing by about 2 ½ years old. You can get through this!

Want some help with baby and toddler food throwing?

Fooblie coaches are here to help you troubleshoot if you are taking on a baby or toddler throwing food. Connect with a coach to talk through how to take on a food thrower with confidence!