Throwing a ball may be a developmental milestone, but it also often marks the beginning of a toddler behavior fewer parents are proud of. I was a mom cheerleader when my son first rolled a ball to me, and doubled my enthusiasm when he tossed it to me; however a month or so later when he was throwing everything from food to shoes I was less ecstatic.
Why do toddlers just love to throw things?
While your toddler’s motivation may vary, there are several reasons that can encourage a toddler to toss whatever he or she can. First it’s important to note a toddler who throws things usually is not doing so to be naughty, nor is it an abnormal toddler behavior. Toddlers have bad impulse control, meaning if the idea pops into their adorable little noggins they do it. They don’t premeditate and plan to anger you or mess up your nice clean floor they just act on their impulses.
Second, throwing involves several learning experiences and toddlers love to learn. There’s the practice of using the hand-eye coordination involved in throwing. The fine motor skills involved in aim and letting go at just the right moment. And lastly, the reaction lessons from how what comes up usually comes down (unless it’s stuck to the ceiling) to the loud amusing noises things make when they come down. As a bonus to the reaction lesson, your toddler also gets to enjoy your reaction. Negative or positive your reaction may be encouraging your toddler’s tossing behavior.
How long is this toddler phase going to last?
That is again dependent on your particular toddler. The throwing stage usually starts shortly after the ball milestone is hit at 18 months or so and ends when impulse control begins to improve around age three. Where your toddler falls in this range would depend on their learning curve, their obstinacy level and your consistency dealing with the behavior.
What can I do about my toddler throwing things in the mean time?
There are of course a few ways to deal with a toddler who throws things, and which way works for you and your child will not likely be the same as what works for someone else. Just remember to be consistent and react the same way every time your child throws something.
-Provide things to throw. First provide your toddler with acceptable object to throw, like a ball or stuffed animal. While you may suspect this could confuse your toddler having some things okay to throw and others not, but the fact that toddlers love to learn does work to your advantage as well as disadvantage.
-React neutrally. Avoid getting upset or angry when your toddler throws things. Simply pick him or her up remove them from the activity and say, “No, we don’t throw *insert object*”. After a short time out you can try providing your toddler with an object that is okay to throw or even laying a catch game with them, saying, “We can throw balls.”
-Take preventive measures. If you know your toddler likes to throw things take steps to prevent that. Use dishes that suck to the highchair, tie strings to binkies, bottles or car seat and stroller toys. Stick close to your toddler when playing and eating and watch for the tell tale arm pull back or mischievous grin. Also pay attention to why your toddler is throwing. Sometimes a toddler throws objects to express things such as anger, boredom, thirst (think empty sippy cup) or fullness.
You may also find helpful:
Fun Educational Meal Ideas for Toddlers
Copy Cat Toddler: What to Do About Negative Influences On Your Child
My Toddler Has a Pot-Belly: Common Questions and Concerns
Baby Center on Throwing
Why Your Toddler Loves to Throw Things