Why does my toddler keep throwing things? If you are a parent of a little one, this question has likely come up during toddler tantrums or just playtime in general. Here are a few things to keep in mind about your child’s new fascination with tossing everything in sight.
Throwing Is Totally Normal Toddler Behavior
Monti Kids parents frequently reach out to us and say "My toddler throws their toys instead of playing with them." Your little one loves to experiment with cause and effect, and throwing is a great way to do so.
Offer Alternatives to Throwing
The mantra “freedom within limits” is an important part of the Montessori method, and a great way to deal with behavior like throwing. Offer options that allow your child to continue exploring this skill in a safe and respectful way. For example, say something like "I see that you're excited to throw your wooden balls. That's dangerous to throw indoors, but would you like to go outside with me and throw something else?" If going outside is not an option, you can say something like "Throwing things can be so much fun, but throwing your wooden balls is dangerous. If you'd like to keep going, you can throw your stuffed animal against this wall because it is soft and won’t hurt anyone."
Provide Toddlers Freedom Within Limits
Try to address your child's curiosity and their need to learn from experience, while also setting a limit for when and where it is appropriate and safe. Your little one is exploring, and if you can figure out how to satisfy this curiosity elsewhere, your child will be able to relax, better focus on tasks, and use their other toys and materials in their intended ways. Allowing freedom within limits will lay an important foundation as limits become even more important (i.e. "You can cross the road as long as you're holding my hand," or "You can let yourself out of your car seat, as long as you stand by the door until I come get you").
Toddlers Like to Hear What They Can Do:
In general, your toddler likes to hear what they can do. Throwing is a specific incident, but this concept can be translated to lots of scenarios in life that you might find your toddler in: climbing, running, shouting, and so on.
Your child lives in a world created and run by adults. During this period when they want to become more independent and separate psychologically from their parents, it’s really challenging to constantly hear "no" or what "not to do." Save those phrases for moments when you really need them. Challenge yourself to flip what you are suggesting to what your child can do instead. Sometimes giving them a job or responsibility can focus their attention positively. "Will you go fix that pillow? I see that it fell off the couch." or "Can you please open the cabinet so I can put the cereal back on the shelf?" This shows your toddler that you trust them and boosts their confidence.
Limits Will Be Tested
No matter how perfectly you have managed your child’s environment, toddlers will want to exercise their power and keep doing things that you have told him not to do. If they aren't interested in the alternatives you offer, you can say something like: "You're showing me you're done with the Tracker balls. I'm going to put them in this drawer (or up on this shelf, out of sight, etc.) until you're ready for them again. You can throw your plush ball instead."
When your child expresses frustration through screaming, crying, throwing or hitting, provide acknowledgement. "You are mad because we are leaving the park. I hear your anger. It's hard to stop playing because this is a fun place." If the testing behavior is throwing, try to avoid a power struggle in which your child is excited to throw again to see what you'll do. Recognize the cause and effect your child is creating and then pivot to something positive."Wow! You made a loud noise when you threw that spoon. I'm worried it's going to hurt our floor, but I know something we can throw safely!"
Giving your little one a choice conveys your respect for their individuality and will reduce the need for undesirable power-seeking behaviors. Read more about this in our Beginner's Guide to Positive Parenting.
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Thanks so much for your question. It sounds like she’s experimenting with cause and effect and testing boundaries, so it’s important to stand firm with your boundaries and explain what you want or don’t want. For example, you might say: “That tells me you’re done with your cup/food, let’s go wash our hands.” This limits the “undesirable” behavior and prioritizes moving on to another productive activity. Let us know if we can help with anything else!
My daughter constantly throws her sippy cup, either off her highchair or just in general! Any tips for this?