Skip to main content

The ultimate guide to stop your toddler’s annoying habit of throwing food

Raising a toddler can be so much fun, but it can also be a little frustrating as you watch your child express newfound emotions and independence in a variety of different ways. One of those ways is when your little angel decides to throw food at you, the floor, the walls, or anything else in the line of sight.

We know that children grow and develop so much during the toddler years that they often act out as a means of expressing their emotions, especially when they don’t yet have the verbal skills to voice their frustrations. Often they will throw their food as a way of communicating that they’re frustrated, tired, bored, or they simply don’t love what they’re eating. Regardless of why they’re throwing their food, toddlers need to learn that chucking dinner across the kitchen isn’t the proper way to get anyone’s attention. If you’ve been dealing with a stubborn toddler who has decided to practice their pitch by using their food, read on to find out ways you can get them to stop.

Related Videos

Why do toddlers throw their food?

As mentioned above, there are several reasons your toddler may have decided that they would rather throw their dinner than eat it, and it often has nothing to do with the menu selection. Parent educator Ann McKitrick explained to Romper that a big reason that toddlers throw food is simply to get a reaction: “From a high chair, there are lots of opportunities for interesting cause and effect. One of the most compelling is the response from the grownups in the room. They learn, based on the adult response, that this is OK or not OK. If they’re being ignored, throwing food is a sure-fire way to get attention. And toddlers love attention.”

Oftentimes toddlers will throw their food simply because they’re bored and it’s sitting in front of them, or they want to test their boundaries as to what sort of behavior is acceptable. They may not like what they’ve been served; as a way to express their distaste they may throw the food, or if they’re finished eating they may no longer want to look at the remaining food that’s sitting in front of them. While throwing food may not be the cleanest or most acceptable toddler behavior, it is quite normal.

What to do?

Setting boundaries immediately is an important step in getting your toddler to not only stop throwing their food but to realize that throwing food is not acceptable behavior. The Children’s Nutritionist suggests that parents try to remain positive when correcting their food-throwing toddler. Instead of going with your gut reaction and telling your child to stop throwing food, they suggest instead telling your toddler that “food stays on the table.” If your child continues to throw food, they suggest ignoring the behavior.

Perinatal and pediatric nutritionist Aubrey Phelps told Romper that one way to get toddlers to stop throwing food is to simply end mealtime when the unacceptable behavior begins. “Typically, I recommend clients say something like, ‘Hmmm, food is for eating, not throwing; looks like you must be all done!’ If babe protests, you can respond cheerfully and calmly with an ‘OK! If you throw again, then you will be done eating!’ If the child throws again, end the meal, reminding them that food is for eating, not throwing. And don’t offer again until the next scheduled meal or snack.”

Serving size can also be a factor when it comes to food throwing. Yummy Toddler Food suggests serving a small amount of food at a time, therefore your toddler isn’t left with excess food for them to throw. They also recommend offering your toddler a choice in what they would like to eat and accepting that there may be some foods they don’t like.


Adjust your expectations

Experts also warn that parents may need to adjust their expectations when it comes to mealtimes and their toddlers. Toddlers don’t have the patience to sit for long periods for a meal, and boredom and frustration can often lead to throwing food. Kids Eat in Color suggests that toddlers can be expected to sit for a meal for just a few minutes per year of age, which may come as a surprise to many parents. They suggest that letting your toddler down from the table as soon as they’re done eating may help curb unacceptable behavior. It just isn’t always realistic to expect many toddlers to be content to sit at a table for an extended period.

Toddlers often act out as a way to get attention so make sure your toddler is getting a bit of quality time before a meal is served. The toddler years are all about testing boundaries and learning to communicate their feelings in a variety of ways, which is why setting realistic expectations while giving positive reinforcement can help mealtime run smoothly.

Editors' Recommendations

A family’s guide to healthy living in 2023, according to an expert
Learn how to make healthy lifestyle changes for the whole family in 2023
Parent putting together a colorful lunch

Getting healthy always tops the list of New Year's resolutions every January, but it's easier said than done, especially when it comes to kids. Putting children on the path to a healthy lifestyle is the gift that keeps on giving. So why not get the whole family on the path to healthy living? Not sure how to get started? Don't worry. We've got an easy guide for healthy habits for families right from registered dietician, pediatric nutritionist, and mom, Ali Bandier.

Be a positive role model
Like anything else, getting your family to embrace healthy living starts with being a good role model. Bandier emphasizes how much influence parents have over their children in regard to food and healthy eating habits. The environment you have in your home and especially at mealtime impacts the relationship your kids have with food. Bandier also points out it's a tightrope walk with how parents positively or negatively influence kids on their eating habits.

Read more
Here are mealtime rituals for kids to keep them engaged at the dinner table
Keep everyone involved at the table with these mealtime routines for kids
Family of three eating dinner at table at home

Sitting down for dinner as a family is sometimes a little tricky when you have kids. From toddlers never wanting to sit still to younger kids not liking what you're serving, parents feel like they need to come to dinner prepared for battle. But with a few simple mealtime rituals for kids that we've put together, you'll all enjoy sitting down at the table.

Before you eat
For your child, mealtime starts before they sit down to eat. It even starts the night before. If your tiny tot didn't get the best night's sleep, that leads to more snacking in between meals. We all know kids who snack more in between meals tend to not want to even sit down at proper mealtimes.

Read more
5 vegetarian baby food recipes that are easy to make
Check out these vegetarian baby food recipes that everyone can enjoy
Happy baby eating from a red bowl

Vegetarian lifestyles have come a long way in the past decade, thanks in part to more focus placed on healthier approaches to meals. This is also because now more than ever, parents are prepping their own foods at home and leaning less on drive-throughs and "quick-stop" type meals that carry little dietary benefit. Parents are skipping the store-brand vegetarian baby foods altogether, while doing their weekly food shopping, opting instead to buy fresh produce to prepare their infant's meals at home, versus buying them pre-made and jarred.

To help bolster those dedicated parents' recipe boxes and fill their pantries with healthier and customized baby foods, we’ve put our heads together to bring you five vegetarian baby recipes that are tasty, exciting, and easy to make right at home.

Read more