Kids Testing Their Limits During Meal-Time

Between the ages of 9 and 12 months, your baby learns about your expectations for their behaviour by testing limits. Meals are a standard time for this to show up. For example, your baby may play with their food, spit it out, drop it on the ground, or throw their utensils.

Your baby isn’t intentionally misbehaving. More likely, they’re curious to see what will happen when they push boundaries: will the food splat on the ground every time it’s dropped? Will your reaction be the same?

Your baby could also be trying to send you a message. For example, perhaps they don’t like a particular flavour or texture, or they’re feeling too tired to sit and eat.

What to do when your baby drops their food or throws utensils 

  1. Stay calm and don’t react. If you make a big deal about it, they’re more likely to repeat their behaviour to elicit a response. 
  2. Gently and firmly communicate your expectations. For instance, you can say, ‘Food stays on the tray,’ while tapping the tray with your finger. 
  3. If they continue to test, it’s okay to remove them from the table, but don’t scold or label them. Instead, say something like, ‘We need to keep food on the tray. Let’s try again later.’
  4. If your baby has been in their high chair for 10 or 15 minutes, they may be finished eating and are ready to move on. 
  5. Give your baby positive reinforcement when they’re doing something you like: ‘Wow! I see you just picked up that piece of banana and got it into your mouth all on your own!’

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