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Toddlers: throwing and dumping

"All done", he says, smile on [handsome] face and doing the hand flip back and forth.  The smile is a little mischievous.  Next thing you know, he is flipping his cup upside down, gleefully watching the milk stream to the floor.  "Uh-oh.  All wet!"

It happens rather often.  He likes to dump the cereal on the floor, flick tofu across the table, and watch liquid run down the legs of the table.  I could use cups with lids, but we tend to all use normal glasses when we sit down for meals, saving lidded cups for excursions.

Many times, I want to yell.  Few times, I do.  In the moments after the spill/dump/toss, I will take a deep breath.  This is a child.  Does he know not what he does?  Perhaps.  Is he testing my limits?  Indeed.  Will it exacerbate the situation and encourage repetition he elicits a furious response from me?  Probably.

But how the hell can I get him to stop dumping stuff on the floor?  Because I sure as hell am tired of mopping it all up (and as much as I give him the tools to "clean-up, clean-up, everybody do their share", it really isn't the best clean-up job.


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Don't make a big fuss about it, but when dinner is over simply have him clean up his mess. I have tried this method over and over and after a while they stop throwing food. Another thing I would do is just clear his spot once he starts throwing the food, but have him sit at the table with you until the rest of you are done.

When you clean it up the child is getting the extra attention for the action, but if you have him clean it ( and don't pay a lot of attention to him while he's cleaning) he'll see that he's not having as much fun throwing food as he used to because he's not getting a response. This will take some time so don't expect this method to work overnight, but eventually it will work. If I were you I would continue using sippy cups with lids until the child is old enough to act like a big boy. It will save you a lot of work. Because let's face it, even if you have your son clean up his mess, you will still have to clean it again yourself for it to be really clean ( don't let your child see you go over it and clean it again though)so why not save yourself some work? Us moms have enough to do as it is.
Good luck!!

We are pretty strict about that. We take the plate away. There is no yelling, sighing or anything else involved. Just very matter of fact, "If you are throwing your food, you aren't going to get any." Then, we hand them a towel and let them clean it up. Eventually, the behavior stopped.

My younger ones didn't have this problem because they saw the consequence when their big sister tried it.

Above all, remember - it's a phase. There are some moments these days I'd go back to those food throwing, bathtub pooping days in an instant. While the behavior is frustrating, once they are older, while things like that get easier, the worries and stresses become infinitely more complicated.

We used sippy cups for a long time for this exact reason. I love the idea of everyone using regular cups with family meals but the spills drive me crazy, even the accidental ones. I know they shouldn't they just do. It saved me a bit of sanity. There is still plenty to clean up. I saw it as a "choosing my battles" kind of thing. If he's actually saying "all done", can you swipe the plate away before he gets a chance to start dumping and spilling?

how can you get him to stop dumping stuff on the floor? um....swat his hand/tush (whichever you're comfortable with), followed by the stern words "no. we don't dump our food on the floor".

and, just because he's a child doesn't mean he has the right to act like that. sometimes i think parents think it's some sort of a rite of passage to allow their tots to destroy things in the name of "exploration".
but telling him firmly "no" and swatting his hand or tush teaches him that there are boundaries and limits.

why the "swatting" part? seems to me that just a firm "no, we don't throw food" and a removal of food or drink should be enough. thoughts?

Family mantra: "Never put more in the cup than you're willing to clean up."

We use regular cups, too. We would rather refill over and over than clean more off the floor. If it spills, we stop and clean enough to continue the meal. If it's dropped or thrown, we remove the cup and say something like "I see you're done with your cup. No need to throw it - just say all done." Repeat over as needed.

I never stressed this small stuff. They grow out of it pretty quickly and turning meal time into torture didn't seem worth it unless you're overly controlling.

We're there, too. Depends on the day/moment if I'm matter-of-fact and calm or frustrated. Do find myself limiting amts of liquids in her cup. She adores cleaning it up, so, that's fine. The food-throwing/dumping, however, I''m never blase about. Wish we had a dog.

I'm with you, Lindsay. I've never been one for hitting children in general, but in this case a firm but kind "no" and removal of the plate seems sufficient. I'm not trying to pick a fight, jln, but I don't understand why you would feel the need to add a hit to the situation. Is there something I'm missing about the value of it?

If by toddler, you mean somewhere around 15-18 months old, then I'd do a few things. One, put a giant towel or a splat mat around the table, just to take the pressure off you. And yes, a dog helps. Two, reassure yourself it is common, and that in a few months, you will probably have moved on to another issue. So it probably doesn't matter precisely how you respond. But three, I don't see any problem in letting a child this old know that they are causing a problem. I'm not getting into the whole hitting/not hitting yelling/not yelling taking food away/not taking food away thing. You've probably already made your own decision about how your family handles this stuff. But especially as they close in on 18 months, they really are old enough to start understanding that it's really not nice to make life hard for the rest of the family.

please. swatting is NOT hitting. and, it is usually effective. there's nothing "wrong" with it, but if you're not comfortable with it, to each his own.

'This too shall pass' is my mantra. I haven't met a toddler yet who does not dump, pour at every opportunity. If they are all doing it, it must be an important part of their development, right? :)

Give them more opportunities to dump outside and less to dump inside. And really, wasting food is never okay in my opinion. Take the plate/cup away and say calmly "I can see you're done now". The house doesn't clean itself... why should a two year old tyrant make your life harder?

Yes, I agree that most toddlers do dump or spill. I don't think it's an important part of their development though, they are testing you. Kids these days get away with too much crap, has anyone noticed that kids are much brattier these days than they were a generation or two ago? It's because of lack of discipline.

It is so frustrating sometimes! I disagree with other posters that this is somehow out of proportion-- we all have our battles and it's clear that this is just one of yours (not the sum total of your parenting). It's helpful to remember that this is probably a phase and I do think that if you can give as neutral reaction as possible it does help in the long run (and that goes for other adults and siblings in the room). Do whatever you can to make it easy to clean-- only put very small amounts in cups and bowls, lay out a towel on the floor under the chair and throw it in the washer at the end of the meal (a lot of laundry, I know) or put a vinyl tablecloth under. Toddlers aren't very good at cleaning up themselves (you are welcome to try!), but they do know how to manipulate a situation quite well.

If he's 2 or younger then I'm amazed this is your only mess (and really, he's largely still a baby). And just use sippy cups. I f he's older than 2, make it clear his behavior isn't cool, make him clean it up, etc. And still use sippy cups.

Some kids don't master glassware until they're 6 or so. That said, definitely don't encourage it with any form of attention. It'll pass.

i'd just use sippy cups and small amounts of food on plates/in bowls for now, along with towel or catch mat under his chair. i'm fairly unperturbed about cleaning up unintentional messes. but intentional messes that are preventable? that would make me crazy, so i'd engineer around it until he's bigger. (especially during dinner which feels like important family relaxing and connecting time - i'd save myself any aggravation i could.)

There may be a good reason to avoid sippy cups. Anecdotally, some speech pathologists believe they contribute to poor muscle development in the child's mouth, which can lead to speech problems later on. Here's one article on the topic; you can find scads of others.
And for people who don't like their child eating and drinking from plastic (hello endocrine disruptors!) there are not a ton of sippy cup options.

Yes, it's better to give them a good slap and shame them over age appropriate behavior then to give them a sippy cup cause it might cause damage! Sometimes I feel like I'm from mars.

Good lord, is that what I said? Sometimes I feel like I must not speak English.

anon, I gotta seriously question this. My BFF is a speech pathologist with almost 25 years' experience--she's also a mom and has never alluded to anything like this. My guess is while there's the potential, it isn't nearly as great a threat as they indicate.

Am I a speech pathologist? No. Is it hard to find speech pathologists who think sippy cups can be a problem? No. Does it mean they are a problem? As far as I know, the only evidence (as I said before) is anecdotal. I first heard about it in the new moms class at Providence, but it's all over.
In any case, the author of this UM post described several things that her child is throwing. In response, some posters advocated sippy cups. But given the range of tossed items, even if she felt like adding a sippy cup at mealtimes in addition to excursions, it wouldn't solve her problem. Also, it is exactly what some of these speech pathologists warn against - they say if you have to use a sippy, use it only for outings or for table, not both.

Checked with my speech pathologist bestie on the sippy cup thing. Her response (again: 20+ years' experience, undergrad at Case Western, Master's from Columbia):

"there are speech pathologists who will link anything to anything if you give them the opportunity to do so. Not only have I never seen this clinically, both MY daughters used sippy cups and neither ever lisped."

Anecdotal evidence should always be taken with an extensive grain of salt.

I have a just turned two year old that loves dumping box of crayons, toys, etc. Then sings that song, "clean-up, clean-up, everybody do their share" and expects me to help her pick up the mess too. She does this without even using the contents. I am starting to hate that clean up song.....

Everytime my toddler spills milk I think of the age old saying "There's no sense crying over spilled milk." and realize it's not that big of a deal. it's not ignored. we deal with but it's never crossed my mind to hit or yell about it.

just wanted to add that when my littles were very little, we always practiced drinking from a regular cup when we were drinking water. when milk was on the menu, that's when i got out a sippy cup. kids do need to practice with a regular cup (and practicing sometimes means intentionally dumping), but any amount of spilled water isn't nearly as frustrating as even a 1/4 cup of spilled milk.

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