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Toddlers who throw things

After months of your encouragement to throw or kick a ball at the park, your child realises that throwing bricks at mummy is lots of fun! How do you get him back out of the habit...

Posted: 29 August 2006
by Laura Lee Davies

Throwing, like biting, is part of that growing realisation to a toddler that he can affect the world beyond himself. The experience is physical and the reaction seems hilarious. After all, haven't mummy and daddy been pulling faces for the past two years and making weird noises to make him giggle? Now it's his turn to initiate the comedy!

As with so many things for small children, the boundaries of what, when and where is appropriate are impossible to fathom without firm, clear and consistent messages from you.
That doesn't mean you have to ban all throwing – after all, he's probably seen you throw something into the bin, and enjoyed early throw and catch sessions on the lounge carpet – it's just that now he has to begin to learn what's OK and what isn't.

Understandably, throwing even small objects strikes fear in parents because a child has no idea of range or velocity and could harm another child or a valued household object in his line of fire. But before you confiscate everything chuckable, stand back and think if there's another plan of action you could take.

  • Celebrate the sport - 'Aha, you're a good thrower, maybe one day you'll bowl for England…'
    Suggest that the park or the playground is better for throwing games and that balls are far more fun to hurl than bricks, toy cars etc. Make sure you follow this through by playing throwing games next time you're in the garden or another appropriate space so that your child associates the right time and place with something you can enjoy together.

  • Change the game - If you find your child throwing in the home, take the object away and make it clear that throwing in such a manner is not allowed and why. (Until about three, children can't see the bigger picture, but will respond to repeated simple messages.)
    But then don't just walk away. The chances are the throw was to get a reaction from you. but if you use the moment to find another activity and praise your child for having a go at it, he will have seized on a better way to get your attention, and your approval.
    Don't just tell him off and walk away. Get down on the floor with him and play a racing game with the cars, or a rolling/skittle game with the ball, and so on.

  • Choose your balls carefully - If you live in a home where there isn't a great deal of space or easy access to the garden, make sure bigger balls (like footballs) are kept out of sight or in the boot of the car for days out.
    Instead, find smaller soft balls for light throw and catch games or rolling games.
    Don't buy hard, very bouncy balls. These are a real temptation for toddlers to put in their mouths and can be very dangerous. Additionally, they have quite an impact on your furniture when they bounce away unpredictably!

  • Be consistent - If you have allowed your child to throw things before, or play with a ball that isn't really suited to indoor use, you will need to make it clear why you are setting a new ground rule. Going the other way, if you have already set the rule, make sure everyone keeps to it (even if daddy is far more confident he can control a ball in the hallway...)

  • Set a limit - If your child insists on contiuining this habit, he will take it beyond your home and may harm a child at playgroup etc.
    Look at situations where he might have learned the behaviour from another child who he continues to see getting away with it, as this will hamper your efforts to resolve the problem in your own home. Try to deal with that situation by explaining to YOUR child why YOU do not think it is a good behaviour.
    If he continues to throw things you must make it very clear why you are taking toys away that he could throw. Try some other activities for a few weeks and keep potential flying objects locked away until he's forgotten all about his favourite naughty past-time!

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