Throwing Food: Not Cool, Mason. Not. Cool.

Last night I sat and watched as Mason tossed–no, flung–his steamed broccoli, piece by piece, onto the floor. He grinned while he did it, and he didn’t even pause when I implored him to stop. He simultaneously ate mac ‘n’ cheese and cantaloupe with his other hand, so I knew he was still hungry. (We need to keep his weight up so I let him hang on to his plate; if he weren’t eating I’d take it away.) He just didn’t want the broccoli on his plate, simple as that. When he’s in an especially charitable mood, he places food that he doesn’t want in my hand and folds my fingers over instead of throwing it (a little quirk he started over Christmas, at my in-law’s house), which I find funny and preferable to the alternative. Spending 10 minutes after every meal on my hands and knees scrubbing the floor is not my idea of fun.

Truth is, it makes me crazy when Mason throws his food. It’s like tossing money down the drain, and it makes a mess. Also it irks me to spend time preparing a meal and then watch half of it end up under his high chair, in his toy pen, and in a million other places that I won’t see until we have company over. Last Sunday, for example, I suddenly noticed a little stash of dried peas behind the end table, about 10 minutes after our friends Ali and Doug arrived, and about two minutes after Mason popped one in his mouth. I had to fish the shriveled pea out of his mouth in front of our guests, who now probably think I’m the worst housekeeper in the world. At least Bug didn’t bite me. I try not to freak out when he throws food, and I definitely never laugh when he does it–I don’t want to encourage him and I suspect he already thinks it’s a game–but it’s so frustrating.

On Saturday I shared a food-throwing incident on the  High Chair Times Facebook page, and several of you said you could relate. “Oh my goodness, that drives me INSANE!!!” Kate said.  “More food goes on the floor than it does in [my daughter’s]  mouth,” Saranda added. Yep, that happens in our household, too, Saranda. Lindsay got it exactly right when she said, “I would swear my son thinks that food throwing is the next Olympic sport!” So does mine, Lindsay, I feel you. Jennifer, on the other hand, said she’s rolling with it: “At least [my] dog is enjoying it.” Looks like Mason’s going to get a dog sooner than we had planned! Thanks, Jennifer:)

Any tips for putting an end to food throwing? Want to vent about your own food throwing frustrations? Dish here!

Photo: Shutterstock, Picsfive

13 thoughts on “Throwing Food: Not Cool, Mason. Not. Cool.

  1. John throws food, rearranges it, moves it from plate to tray to plate again, smashes it, pulls it half chewed out of his mouth and offers it to me. I’m sure he will grow out of it. He also eats dried up food off the floor that I’ve missed. I’ve learned to pick my battles as I pick up food off the floor!

  2. Ew, Mason does the half-chewed thing too! And I hate it when he eats stuff off the floor. Is this a boy thing, or do girls do it too?

  3. Lily, our 16 month old has hit this stage within the last 2 weeks. She will eat half of one of those banana cookies, and then drop her head down, and watch herself spit it all out. THEN, she picks the nasty mush up, and sticks it back in her mouth… or tries to hand it to me. Thanks.

    To help with the mess on the floor, my MIL suggested putting a shower curtain liner (cheap!!) under the high chair to catch the mess. It wipes up easily, which keeps me from spending time cleaning kitchen tiles/grout. We were going to buy one of those expensive splat mats, but this works just as well!

  4. Both my kids threw food on the floor from their high chair. I remember being frustrated despite all my calm demenaour and patience to try to avoid this situation. Then I finally understood why they are in an exploratory phase and curiosity. Learm more about toddlers at

  5. My son is 16 months and he does this as well. He will stare at me with a look of defiance and just the tiniest bit of a grin and very purposefully drop his food on the floor. He also likes to offer me already chewed up food. The sharing is adorable because he looks so happy to offer his food to me, but no thank you dear son 🙂 We have not yet found a way to stop this behavior. We usually tell him not to throw his food and make the sign to “eat”. Sometimes he will start eating again, but other times he is just done with that particular food. I will remove his tray and wipe it down. I ask him if he wants more and he will make the sign for more or shake his head no. If he wants more we try something else. I guess the best way to keep the mess down is to limit the amount of “ammo” we give him. I usually only give him a small amount of food at a time. He is good about asking for more when he wants it. This does not stop the food from landing on the floor (or piling up in his high chair) but it does limit the amount of mess to clean up. He has also steadily improved his ability to communicate his needs at dinner time. When he was very young he used to just spit food in my face when he didnt want it so dropping it on the floor does not seem so awful to me 🙂 Good luck and keep us updated about any new ideas.

  6. My 20 mo. old is going through the same phase, only he has graduated from dropping his food over the side of his chair to throwing fistfuls of food at various people around the table. His sister is usually the main target, and I’ve come to realize that he does it because I’ve threatened to give whatever he’s not eating to her. He’s just cutting out the middleman!

  7. I thought I was the only one whose toddler does this. My 2 year old (26 months) throws food a lot, even right after I tell her not to. I hate the defiance…the whole thing drives me crazy!! I just make her help me clean it up afterwards.

    And she also picks up dried food from the floor and eats it. She probably eats some non-food items too! So annoying because she’s never been a good eater, yet she’ll just eat off the floor!!

  8. Oh, my son used to do this. And I was a mom struggling with getting my son to eat and keep his weight up. Yes, Mason’s probably in an exploratory phase, but it’s one that needs boundaries. Let him fling other things (small soft toys, that sort of thing), but if he’s flinging his food, then what’s the point of him keeping his plate? He’s not eating it!

    Instead, I suggest saying something simple like “Uh oh!” with a smile on your face (just pretend it doesn’t bother you at all for this next part). Then…take the plate away. Then remove him from the chair and redirect him. Eventually he WILL get hungry. And then you can decide what to do.

    But your child’s sake though, please, PLEASE, don’t let him throw any more of his food–the food you worked and paid for. He’s making a choice to throw it, and you’re making a choice to let him.

  9. Our son is 27 mos…we can’t seem to conquer this one either! I have tried:

    -Ignoring him
    -Telling him he has to clean it up and after he is done standing there with a bowl while he deposits the pieces in and wipes with a paper towel. (this doesn’t work because he seems to think this is fun)
    -Putting him in time out and then after time out putting him back in his high chair (so that he doesn’t think throwing food will get him out of eating dinner)

    I would love to see others’ suggestions!

  10. Yep, totally the same issue with my 16m old daughter. Never had this issue with our son who’s about to turn 5… he used to eat everything… but now he’s in pre-school he’s getting really fussy which is another annoying problem especially when he’s happily been eating something but stops ‘cos one of his friends doesn’t like it.
    The food dropping (feeding the dog in our house!) and throwing is frustrating and it’s very hard to get our little girl to try things. She wants every carb going but nothing else really. Would love to hear some ideas on how to conquer this.
    I thought I had the food thing pretty mastered, but it takes a second child to humble you again!

  11. Yep, I’m right there with you moms! My son Miles (15 months) does this at EVERY meal! He is also low weight for his age (15th percentile, but 95th in height!) So I worry he’s not eating enough. He thinks it is so much fun to fling his food in the direction of our good beagle who sits patiently and doesn’t touch the food till i say so. I try to give him a tiny amount of several things and wait for him to ask for more. Usually he asks for more just so he can toss it (or smear it everywhere, a fun new quirk). Here’s hoping this phase goes away quick!

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