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Teaching a young toddler to eat solids can be challenging, particularly when they reach the stage where they want to control the feeding, and insist on feeding themselves.

It is also messy.

Lots of food ends up on my son, on me, on my wife, and on the floor. Much of that is accidental.

At 15 months, my son does fairly well now putting food into his mouth (unless it is particularly slippery).

However, if he decides he no longer wants something that he has in his hand, his typical response is to drop it on the floor (it is almost never dropped on the table). If he is walking with a snack, and decides he doesn't want it anymore (whether he's just tired of it, or sees something else he wants more, like his bottle), he will pause, and then carefully and deliberately drop it behind him.

If he has multiple pieces of food available to him, and decides he doesn't want them, he insists on pushing every single piece out of his immediate reach, usually by sweeping his arm across them or brushing vigorously with his hand.

He doesn't throw food, and there doesn't seem to be any element of defiance to his actions. It is simply "I'm done with this, so I'll drop it/move it away from me".

Is he old enough to be taught that food should not be dropped on the floor? We've tried telling him to put it on the table, and the few times he does put food down on the table, or on the plate, we've encouraged him with words, smiles, and clapping, but he doesn't seem to be showing any decrease in the "drop on the floor" behavior.

If he is old enough to be taught, what are some good techniques for teaching him?

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How old is your son? –  Karl Bielefeldt Dec 21 '11 at 17:56
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Ugh, I had that in there, and then accidentally dropped it when I made some edits. He's 15 months, but I'll add that back in. Good catch! –  Beofett Dec 21 '11 at 18:04
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2 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

In my experience, kids stop doing that at around age 3. However, like anything else, they don't magically know how to do things just because they had a birthday. You start teaching him now and eventually it catches on.

It's really important not to just say no, but to teach the alternative. You can't really suppress their instinct to push it away, just redirect it to a more suitable location. In our family, we say "put it right there" and point to an empty spot on the table near them. It also helps a lot if you catch him when it looks like he's done, but before he drops the food. That's easier said than done, but usually there's some sign beforehand like bites slowing down, playing with the food more, or looking distracted or squirmy.

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This worked very well for us. Now he either puts it next to his plate, or (more often) hands it to us. Thanks! –  Beofett Feb 15 '12 at 14:56
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As an update, the key definitely seemed to be looking for the signs that he was about to finish. Whenever he seemed to be finishing, we'd ask "are you done with your banana?" (or whatever). Now he's much better about announcing "done banana" and handing it to us, or putting it carefully on the table. –  Beofett Aug 13 '12 at 16:14
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He is not to young. When he drops food on the floor back up his chair so he can not reach the food anymore (are take away the tray if he is still in a highchair). Say, I guess you are finished with dinner if you are putting food on the floor. After a few minutes ask him if he would like more dinner and remind him that food does not belong on the floor. Repeat this every night and every time. As well, when dinner is over have him clean up the floor.

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I know my niece would love to help cleaning the floor afterwards. She would see it as a nice reward for dropping food. –  Martha Dec 23 '11 at 15:33
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