Your 18-month old is not a baby anymore. At this stage of his development, that approximately lasts from 18 months to 3 years, your child becomes a toddler.
Toddlers rapidly develop and bravely reach their milestones (things that most children their age can do). Your toddler becomes steadier on her feet, moves around much more, and shows an increasing desire to explore herself and her surroundings.
Kids at this age show greater independence, imitate the behavior of others, have a rapidly developing vocabulary, form simple phrases and sentences, and follow simple directions and instructions.
However, toddlers also begin to show defiant behavior such as temper tantrums or throwing toys. Defiant behavior in toddlers comes as a natural consequence of their ability to understand independence and ability to control their environment.
They seek independence, but still lack self-control. In other words, defiant behavior in toddlers is a normal and developmentally appropriate part of growing up.
Your response to your child’s defiant behavior will teach them how to respect limits and develop self-control.
Where Does Throwing Toys Come From?
Some toddlers are by nature more likely to be defiant than others. Highly sensitive children (kids whose emotional reactions are intense and overwhelming), as well as kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or those on the autism spectrum usually show more defiant behavior than children who are laid back and flexible.
Highly sensitive children typically tend to struggle with transitions and usually protest during transition times, as these changes can be very stressful for them.
Throwing toys may be one of the behaviors your toddler uses to express his distress. They may start throwing toys and other objects because they don’t know how to handle stressful situations. Or they cannot find words or other constructive ways to communicate their needs and feelings. For example, your child may start throwing toys when he feels very tense or anxious.
Throwing Toys as Educational Practice
Kids learn through play and exploration. Through play, toddlers experiment with their surroundings, test limits, and learn rules.
Throwing toys is a new skill that kids learn between 18 months and 3 years of age. To throw a toy, your toddler needs to employ her fine-motor skills (to open the fingers and let go of a toy), as well as her hand-eye coordination (to throw it).
Toys that your child throws fall down or bounce back (like balls). So, when throwing toys, your toddler is actually learning something new: he is discovering gravity!
What Can You Do About Throwing Toys?
Instead of stopping your toddler from throwing toys, pay attention to objects he throws and where he throws them, so he doesn’t get injured or hurt someone else.
- Provide Toys that Your Toddler Can Throw
- If you allow and encourage your child to throw certain objects (plush toys, balls, rubber blocks, beanbags, etc.), this will help her to learn what objects she is and what objects she is not allowed to throw.
- Play Throwing Games Together
A throwing game, such as tossing foam balls into baskets is an excellent activity to help your toddler practice this skill and learn how to throw toys safely.
- Correct the Behavior
When your toddler starts throwing food or something else inappropriate, calmly take it away and let him know that food isn’t for throwing. Provide an alternative, such as a ball and allow your child to throw it if he wants.The key when correcting your toddler’s behavior is to be firm, calm, and consistent. If you give a toy back to your child and he throws it again, don’t escalate the tone of your voice or punish your child.
Be patient and repeat in a firm and gentle corrective manner: “No throwing toys. Food is not for throwing, balls are, “or something similar.
- Discourage Aggressive Throwing
Kids learn through repetition. So, if your toddler throws something that he shouldn’t, such as a rock, hard toy, his shoe, or sand from the sandbox in the park, you must always react the same way.Discourage aggressive throwing by saying something like: ”No, we don’t throw rocks. No, thank you, that hurts,” and redirect your child or pull him aside for time-out, to remove him from the situation and help him focus on your action.
Make sure to explain your action and to keep time-out brief, so your child doesn’t forget why he was discouraged at what he was doing.
- Boost Your Child’s Emotional Vocabulary
Encourage your toddler to use words when angry or upset. Work on developing their emotional language. An emotional vocabulary includes all words your child uses to express their feelings and experiences.Kids use emotional language even before they start talking. They use their body language and cry, smile, and laugh to communicate their feelings and needs.
Remember that toddlers deal with the same emotions adults do. However, they often lack the words to communicate how they are feeling, expressing their emotions in inappropriate and unconstructive ways instead. Teaching your child to recognize and express anger, sadness, frustration, happiness, embarrassment, and other emotions will prevent aggressive behaviors and support the child’s emotional and social development.
- Encourage Your Toddler to Clean Up
Ask your child to pick up their toys and join them in this activity. Picking up toys on their own may be an overwhelming task for a toddler. Say something like, “Let’s pick up these toys together,” or “Can you help me tidy up these toys?” and encourage your child to clean up with you.
- Be a Good Role Model
Set a good example of what is okay to throw and what’s not. For example, ask your child to join you while you are doing laundry, so he can see that it’s okay to throw dirty clothes in the basket or the washing machine. This way, your child will learn when, how, and where is safe to throw certain objects.
Whether it is an expression of defiance or an attempt to explore and practice their skills, throwing toys is a part of normal development in typically developing toddlers. While this is a behavior that pushes your buttons, try to stay calm and consistent when managing your child’s challenging behavior.
Remember that young kids learn through play and exploration, and for them, throwing toys is just that – play and fun.