Always aim for the chest so you can get maximum splatter, yet minimal harm.
Oh wait, not that kid of tip…how about a tip for when your child is the one throwing food? Yeah, that’s probably what you were hoping for. So your child is one, two, three years old? And has entered a phase in which is is fun and exciting to throw the food from her plate instead of eating it politely?
The #1 tip for this problem is: Don’t serve your child food to throw.
Serve her food to eat only. This means giving her no more food than she can eat in one bite.
If she has a plate full of food, there’s one bite for eating and tons of bites for throwing and playing with while she’s chewing.
Even if you try to narrow that opportunity down by portioning out three bites of food at a time, that still gives her one bite to eat and two bites for throwing while she’s chewing.
Take that opportunity all the way down to zero by serving her one bite of food at a time. That’s one bite for eating and…well, that’s it. You’re eliminating the chance of her throwing her food.
When you get to the point at which you’re serving her another bite of food and she throws it instead of eats it, that’s your cue that she’s all done. You can say, “Oh, you must be all done eating!” Wipe her hands and excuse her to play.
But, you ask, what if she’s still hungry?
She would have eaten the food in front of her.
What if she gets hungry in just a short while because she didn’t eat her meal?
Yes, she may be hungry soon. She can either wait until the regularly planned snack time (at which she is offered the regularly sized snack to eat) or she can wait until the next meal. She’ll make it. And she’ll be hungry and ready to eat, not throw.
The food-throwing phase is just that: a phase. It can be a difficult one because of the careful monitoring of food at each meal and the potential for hunger-induced behavior between meals. But it’s not cause for shaming or scolding a child for what is developmentally normal behavior, nor repeatedly issuing the same instructions of, “Don’t throw food,” nor catering to your child’s pleas for snacks because she literally threw her food away mealtime.
Your child is simply very, very young and driven by sensory experiences. She lacks the neural connections in her brain to control the impulse to play with her food. She will soon develop this and mealtimes will go smoothly. To help with this need for sensory stimulation during this age, you can also plan playtime activities that offer the same kinds of sensations as playing with food. Things such as shaving cream or whipped cream tubs, rice or bean bins, finger painting, or body art offer toddlers the same kinds of tactile sensory experiences without the expectation of appropriate table manners. This free play will help satisfy those sensory needs while she outgrows the instinct to throw food.
(But if you are ever in a food throwing situation yourself, try getting down low and aiming up for a great splatter to the neck and face. And use something light, like whipped cream. Way fun.)