Toddler Food-Throwing: What to Do (and How to Preserve Your Sanity)

Toddler Food-Throwing: What to Do (and How to Preserve Your Sanity)

If you, like me, have a toddler, you’ve no doubt witnessed them throwing food onto the floor. And if you are anything like me, you’ve probably wanted to rip your hair out, grab a bottle of wine and run screaming from your home to a place where you’ll never ever ever have to clean the floor ever again. But alas, we probably shouldn’t run screaming (no matter how tempting it may be).

As for your toddlers, why do they do it – do they think it’s a game? Do they not like the food? Are they trying to feed the dog? Are they trying to drive you crazy?! It doesn’t matter – the point is, we want it to stop! Seriously, it’s enough to make you want to either lock yourself in the closet and pretend it’s not happening, or join in with her and dump the pot of spaghetti on your head (I mean, she’s making it look like fun, right?!).

Here are a few tips on how to deal with your toddler throwing food, and what to do to make it stop:

  1. Keep perspective. No matter how rational a person you are, sometimes in the moment it is very hard to not get frustrated. First, accept that this is a developmental stage and a normal impulse for them to want to throw food. This doesn’t mean you are allowing the behavior; it simply means you understand that it will probably happen, it’s not your fault, and your toddler isn’t doing it just to be a jerk. It’s normal for them to do this, and it won’t last forever. One of the most frustrating, albeit probably true, things people say are: “It’s a phase. Don’t worry, it will pass.” While it’s meant to be comforting, there is nothing comforting when you’re on your hands and needs picking up food during breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. But the harder you resist it, the more frustrating it will become for the both of you, so take a deep breath. Then…
  2. Think ahead. Set yourself up for success by taking some of the following steps: set newspaper down on the floor around your toddler’s high chair to help make clean up easier; get a giant bib that gives full coverage; remove all of your toddler’s clothes, so that when he’s done, you can go from highchair to bathtub; if you have a pet your toddler loves to feed, consider keeping him in a separate room if possible when it’s dinner time. (If Mr. Fuzzy Snuggle Pants is roaming around the kitchen, the more likely it will be for your toddler to want to toss food in his direction.)
  3. Practice portion control. According to an article from the website What to Expect: “The more food there is on her plate, the more your toddler may be tempted to play with it (“Who needs clay when I’ve got mashed potatoes?”). So put only a few bites’ worth at a time in front of your child, doling out more as she finishes her portion.”
  4. Practice “redirecting”. While your little one may simply be acting on impulse when they throw food, it also may be that they don’t particularly care for something on their plate. So practice ‘redirecting’ their throw. When you see your toddler winding up for launch, firmly say, “No,” then show them where they can put their food if they don’t like it. It sounds silly, but this has worked for me (Ali) with Penelope! I say, “No! If you don’t want it, you put it here. NO THROW.” I’ve found that she also likes that she can now make the choice on her own. (I always try to offer it again at the end of the meal, and sometimes she goes for it. Because toddlers.) You can use a separate plate, a separate spot on the high chair, or if they can reach it, a spot on the table for them to put their unwanted food.
  5. Think about whether or not your child is hungry. One thing we’ve found that helps is to make sure our toddlers are nice and hungry come dinner time. Think about your day: did they have a late afternoon snack? Limiting snacks near dinner hour will ensure they are nice and hungry when it’s time to eat. This at least limits their food throwing, or delays it until toward the end of the meal, so they’ll at least wolf down the first half of dinner before they start decorating your floor.

Have you found other tips you can share that work for you? What did we miss?


About Alessandra Macaluso

Alessandra Macaluso is author of What a Good Eater! and The Real-Deal Bridal Bible, host of the Real-Deal Brides Podcast, and blogger at Alessandra’s work is featured in several anthologies, most recently But Did You Die? which is the fifth installment in a New York Times bestselling series. She has contributed to The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, and many other online publications. Her original screenplay “Polar Suburbia” placed as a semi-finalist in the Moondance Film Festival. Alessandra is mom to two toddlers and a twenty-five pound Maine coon cat who believes he is a dog. She spends her time driving her OCD husband completely nuts with her constant rearrangement of scenery in their home. Learn more at and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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