Is your toddler throwing things around? Are they throwing tableware on the floor, food on the table, pacifiers from the stroller, or maybe stones in the playground?
Maybe sometimes they throw something right into your face. And it can hurt! A lot!
In this article, we will take a closer look at why they do it and what we can do about it.
Why Do Toddlers Throw Things?
I believe that if we want to correct or redirect certain behaviors, it goes much easier if we understand what is behind it.
What is the motivation? Why is there a need to do something that is not appropriate in certain situations?
Toddlers always explore their surroundings; this includes throwing objects. They have finally learned how to open their fist at the right moment so the teddy bear or wooden brick flies forward. Yupiii!
Achieving New Milestone
They have achieved this fantastic developmental milestone in their gross and fine motoric. And they are ready to test it and improve it.
For toddlers, it is very interesting to watch how different objects act in different situations. What sound does a plastic piece of lego make when hitting the wooden floor? And what happens when the pacifier lands in the glass of water across the table?
All of these are very interesting and also very important facts for your toddler to learn. They do not call it gravity but they can sure observe it. And it is so much fun for them.
And a little less for us! I know!
It is very helpful for us to understand this so we do not act emotionally if they throw something at the worst moment possible.
In their eyes, everything is a science project. They do not think in terms of adults like something is dirty, wet or perhaps too loud.
They take these pieces of information and save them in the hardware so they can use them later in life. You might say it is Physics 101 for them.
Throwing different objects and observing cause and effect is one of the important developmental tasks for toddlers.
What Is The Best Thing We Can Do?
What we as parents and teachers can do is allow them to do so in a safe environment where they can not hurt themselves or other children, adults or animals.
The best thing we can do is to find a place and time where they can saturate this need within social norms and without breaking any rules.
I know; maybe you already got a blow to the head. It really hurts.
The situation is not helped by the fact that we may not have expected it and are in a bit of shock.
It also worsens the environment. If it happens somewhere other than at home and there are witnesses, we tend to resort to inappropriate solutions and blame the child for throwing.
How To React Appropriately?
Of course, we do not want to allow our toddlers to hurt us, themselves or others. So how do we react?
Toddlers love to watch not only what will happen with a thrown object but also what our reaction will be.
They test the limits daily. This is what they are designed for. So how do we teach them that throwing things at other people is not appropriate without being mean or shaming them?
Using Consequences To Teach Discipline
As Janet Lansbury in her amazing (must-have) book No Bad Kids said: “A toddler learns discipline best when he experiences natural consequences for his behavior, rather than a disconnected punishment like a time-out. If a child throws food, his mealtime is over.“.
We want to calmly and kindly stop the child if the throwing is inappropriate or dangerous.
Parents should always stay in charge and guide the toddler to appropriate behavior.
Focusing On Positive Behavior
In such a situation try to redirect the toddler to another activity. Don’t forget to tell them what you expect them to do instead of throwing.
Let’s say your toddler is throwing the spoon during mealtime. You could say something like this: “The spoon is for eating. If you feel like throwing, we can go outside and play with the ball.“
Instead of: “Stop that! The spoon is not for throwing! What are you doing? How many times did I tell you you should eat properly like a big boy?“
Do You Feel It?
Yes, I know; maybe I exaggerated the second example. But it helped me to make my point. Right?
In the first example, the parent is calm and simply informs the child what the rules are and what they can do if they feel like throwing.
In comparison, the parent in the second example is not calm at all. You can feel he is nervous, annoyed, and angry.
Parents in both examples are trying to accomplish the same thing. The biggest difference I see here is how the child feels.
Imagine for a second you are the child playing with the food or spoon. You are in your world deep in your thoughts and suddenly you hear your mother or father saying these two different things from our examples.
How do you feel? What would you rather hear?
Exactly! What helped me to correct my language to speak with my children at home and with children I teach in kindergarten more appropriately was to speak more informatively.
How do I mean that?
Let’s say your child is throwing a toy out of a stroller. As a first reaction, you need to say only what you see.
“I see you are throwing your teddy bear away.“
And wait for the reaction. Few things are happening at this moment. Your child has time to think about what is happening and you have time to calm down if this is triggering you in any way. You can also think about what your child is trying to tell you with their actions.
The Most Important Questions To Ask
1. Is my child hungry or tired?
2. Are they in the stroller for too long?
3. Do they need interaction with me or reinsurance from me?
And before you are all emotional and your child is crying, you can solve this (or any) situation with elegance and grace.
In this kind of situation, I find very helpful baby sign language. It is so simple and so effective. You can talk with your toddler before they can speak and it has so many other benefits too.
Scientists found that signing with children has the following unbelievable benefits:
Great. You can start signing in less than 5 minutes. Here is an article and a video with the first few signs to start with. So you don’t have to guess what is wrong with your toddler, they can “tell“ you.
How Can I Prevent This?
Toddlers are going to throw things anyway. There is nothing we can do to stop them. And yes, sometimes it will be in an inappropriate situation.
What we can do to eliminate inappropriate throwing is:
With different materials, objects, and toys. Inside and outside. Be creative. The more you can do this, the more saturated your child will be, and you can avoid a few scenes.
As Janet Lansbury says: “Toddlers, especially, are prone to pushing limits. It is their job as active learners and explorers and developmentally appropriate.“
By adjusting our reactions to this kind of behavior, we are helping our toddler to:
- Understand the rules and boundaries
- Discover the laws of physics
- Expand their vocabulary
- Feeling loved and accepted even if they do something wrong.
While researching this topic, I found a few great websites with great information:
It’s worth it. Do you agree with me? I would love to hear about your experiences with throwing things.
What is your toddler throwing? What situations freak you out? And what helped you?
I look forward to your comments.
And don’t forget: 💛 Be the parent you want your child to be.