It’s common for toddlers to play with their food and it's vital for their development too. Sometime though, you know they're just being cheeky monkeys chucking food which can get frustrating fast. Especially when you’ve been slaving over a home-cooked meal that’s just ended up on the floor.
Kinderling listener Charlie recently contacted Kinderling Helpline for advice on how to deter her 18-month daughter from wearing and throwing food. “Is this normal? How do I make it less of a disaster?” she asked us.
Don't fret, Charlie - here's five handy tips from our resident child expert Chris Minogue to win the food fight.
1. Cut back on the snacks
If bub’s regularly going haywire in the highchair, Chris says there’s a good chance they could be already full so look to minimise the snacks beforehand.
“Mucking around at mealtime could come from over-eating during the day,” says Chris. “If it’s a specific meal, like dinner, I’d be looking at decreasing her snacks, as we often [over-snack].”
Chris advises giving them half an apple and a drink of water for afternoon tea, which will give them time to build up an appetite again for dinner time.
2. Push dinner-time back
Another smart tactic is moving mealtimes back so your child will be more hungry and hopefully, more focused. Chris adds: “For a 18-24 month old, this could be [a shift to] 5:30pm, with a good two hours between a snack and dinner time.”
Listen to the latest Kinderling Helpline:
3. Avoid problem projectile foods
Youngster flinging yoghurt on a regular basis? For the sake of your sanity (and floors), disarm them and take it off the menu for a while, says Chris. “If probably just a game she’s playing that gets an incredibly good reaction from her parents!”
4. Give warnings and follow through
If the previous tips haven’t worked, it could be time to issue warnings, says Chris. Start by telling them we don’t throw food and to put it back on their plate.
“The second time they do it, I usually remove the child and put them on the floor just for a minute,” explains Chris. “Then after a few minutes, ask them if they’re ready to eat and put them back in their seat.”
5. If pain persists, consider calling it quits
If you've tried your best but none of the food’s actually going in their mouth, it may be game over.
“If they [act up] a third time, I’d just end a meal,” says Chris. “They may have over-eaten over the whole day, and it’s time for a teeny bit of discipline."
Parents might worry kids will wake up hungry overnight if they miss a meal, but Chris says it shouldn’t be a problem. “They’ll be right to [miss] one meal,” she advises.
Have a question of your own? Get in touch with Kinderling Helpline, and tune in Mondays at midday.
Check out Chris' book Bringing Baby Home on the Pan McMillan website.
Food refusal: How to feed a fussy eater
Jess Beaton, nutritionist with One Handed Cooks, shares her advice on how to deal with food refusal and get finicky babies to eat.
How to avoid kids' supermarket meltdowns
What to do before your kid goes nuclear.
How to win the clothes argument with a toddler
Dealing with opinions, especially in the wardrobe department.
5 tasty and easy slow cooker recipes
Quick, easy and most of all - yummy!
Robin Barker's advice for fussy eaters
Renown child expert Robin Barker dishes out smart tips for understanding fussy eaters.
How to help an anxious child that’s scared of being alone
It's no surprise our little ones can have big worries.
9 easy things to introduce to your family evening routine
Because an evening routine is just as important as a morning one.
Maggie Dent's 3 top tips to teach our boys to be good men
Anyone else feeling a little lost?