When does biting start?
It’s common in toddlers at nursery, starting from around the age of 1, but non-nursery-goers can be biters too. As far as places go, it can happen at home or out and about.
Why your toddler bites
“Biting is normally a demonstration of a strong emotion – usually frustration, insecurity or jealousy,” says Camilla McGill co-founder of The Parent Practice.
“But a lot of parents don’t realise a toddler might lash out in situations where he feels overwhelmed and uncertain too – in both new and familiar settings – as it helps him to feel in control.
Who your toddler goes for
If she’s at nursery other toddler chums are usually the main target, but she might also go for family members and friends.
8 ways to stop the toddler biting
Thankfully, there are lots of ways to stop them biting, so if one doesn’t work for you, keep trying until you find the solution.
1. Give her something else to bite
“Find her an alternative to get her teeth into,” says Camilla. “A hanky she keeps in her pocket is a good option. You’ll need to practise this with her at home to get her to remember to do it and she might need prompting at first. Get the nursery on board, too. Staff can remind her to use her hanky before a play situation happens where she might bite.”
2. Keep her busy
“Offer a variety of activities that involve her senses. Anything physical – sand, water, soft dough and outdoor games – is a great idea as your child gets the chance to explore while really enjoying herself at the same time. The idea is to reduce frustration and the chance that she might bite,” says Camilla.
3. Limit choice
“Biting can happen if your child feels overwhelmed, so it’s important to limit her choice – offering her no more than two things at once to choose from is enough,” says Camilla.
4. Make space
Toddlers sometimes bite if they feel things are too much for them, so it’s a good idea
to look out for indicators of this. “If you spot any signs, give her space in a separate room for a few minutes,” says Camilla. And the same rule applies if she’s already bitten. Look for nurseries that have well-organised spaces with toys that children can get to easily as this also reduces frustration.
5. Buy more than one toy
“Toddlers find it hard to grasp the concept of sharing before the age of three, so in the meantime it might be a good idea to provide more than one of the same toy as this will limit the chance of frustration and subsequent biting,” says Camilla.
6. Praise good behaviour
A little ‘well done’ goes a long way. “If you or the nursery can catch her at a time when she normally bites but she doesn’t, give her lots of praise and don’t forget that her biting is never driven by a calculated desire to hurt someone else,” says Camilla.
7. How to deal with other parents
If your child’s a biter, don’t feel embarrassed – talk openly about your toddler’s problem as you’ll be given a lot more respect than if you try to hide or deny it. If you show people that you’re taking steps to fix it, no reasonable person will judge you.
8. How the nursery can help
A good and experienced nursery will realise that some challenging behaviour, such as toddler tantrums, is completely normal as it’s part of a toddler’s social development.
But biting isn’t socially acceptable, so if you have a toddler who won’t stop biting, you may be called in to talk about why she’s doing it so you can both work out how to help her stop. This is normally enough to get to the root of the problem but in very extreme cases you might be asked to take her out of nursery for a few days.