The Throwing Habit

Finding yourself ducking to avoid sippy cups, building blocks and coffee table decoration pieces? Great! Your toddler has officially entered its “throwing” phase! Children between the ages of 18 months and 3 years revel in throwing random objects around; not only is it a great way to develop their motor skills and eye-hand coordination, it’s also a source of great entertainment! Not for the parents, though. Before you start gluing everything into place, however, take a few minutes to learn why it’s healthy for your child to throw things and how you can prevent it from doing any damage in the process.

Why They Do It

Why do toddlers throw things? For many reasons: for one thing, your toddler is learning basic science by observing how different objects are affected by gravity, not to mention the concept of cause-and-effect. Balls bounce, plastic plates clatter, and full milk bottles slosh! So you can understand your toddler’s delight at the various new revelations it discovers with each throw. 

Throwing simply means that your child is exploring or trying to communicate with you. For example, tossing a sippy cup might be your toddler’s way of telling you that it’s thirsty or has had enough. Young children in particular have yet to develop their impulse control, and chances are if they’ve got something in their hand, they’re going to throw it. Older toddlers, on the other hand, will sometimes toss or drop objects to test your reaction and learn what’s acceptable and what isn’t.

How to Handle It

This is a time of learning for your growing toddler, so instead of trying to stop it from exploring the world around it, focus on teaching it what’s okay and what isn’t. You can do this by using the following strategies: 

  • Teach your toddler what can be thrown and what shouldn’t be. Set boundaries and communicate what’s allowed. Give your toddler foam balls, mini beanbags, and other harmless toys and items that it can throw without causing damage to your home or harm to other family members or children. Make a game out of it and join in the fun to make things more interesting for your child. Your object here is to teach your toddler that there is a right way, time and place to throw things.
  • Discourage harmful throwing behavior. Your child might try throwing something to get your attention, so if it throws sand or a block at another child, ignore it the first few times as long as it doesn’t pose any threat to others. Reacting to such acts might teach your toddler that it can draw your attention with such behavior, causing it to repeat the action again and again. If your toddler repeatedly throws things at other children and comes close to hurting them, make sure you react in the same way each time, as children learn through repetition. When your toddler tries to toss something dangerous, say, “No, that’s dangerous,” or “No, that hurts,” and place it in quick time-out. Avoid yelling or hitting your child to discourage throwing. If nothing works, keep a close watch on your toddler and keep sharp or heavy toys out of reach to stop it from throwing them and harming anyone or causing damage.
  • Fasten your toddler’s toys to its seat. This will come in handy when you’re taking your toddler out in the stroller or for a drive in its car seat. Simply use short pieces of string to fasten the toys to the car seat or stroller’s handle and let your toddler enjoy throwing toys away and fishing them back up again.
  • Sit with your toddler during mealtimes. Doing so would enable you to minimize mealtime messes and the amount of spaghetti you have to scrape off the floor. You will also be able to gently and firmly guide your toddler when it attempts to toss its lunch and plate. Take advantage of this time to try and develop your toddler’s language skills by talking to it.