What To Do When Toddlers Throw

Toddlers love to throw things, and why not? Throwing is fun and in our evolutionary past it was a crucial skill for young hunters to develop. Unfortunately for us, this urge to throw often comes out at the worst possible times and with the most breakable or dangerous items around. It also often happens when a child is frustrated, so it can be difficult to know how to respond. So what can you do if you have a toddler or young child who loves to throw things?

Redirection is the key to avoiding injuries to you and your child during the development and practice of throwing. Here’s what I say when Julia throws something inappropriate. “Ut oh, books (hard plastic toys or animals, forks, dishes, etc.) are NOT for throwing. If you’d like to throw something, let’s go get a ball or a beanbag!” to which she will often respond by happily running over to her basket full of balls, choose one, and throw it.

Granted, she is only 19 months old and isn’t very good at throwing yet. And, we don’t have a “no throwing balls in the house” rule…yet. But what about your three or four year old boy who is REALLY good at throwing and you DO have a “no balls in the house” rule. Then I’d find some indoor throwing activity to redirect toward. You might invite him to throw his stuffed animals against the wall in his bedroom or offer him some beanbags and a box or basket to throw them into.

One of the reasons this redirection works for me is because I am completely supportive of a child’s desire to throw something. In fact, I think that throwing things is a beautifully healthy way to release frustration or anger, as long as the activity is safe for everyone and everything involved. Have you ever angrily thrown rocks into a lake? Then you know what I mean. It’s a movement that feels REALLY good.

So if you’d like to use this strategy, first examine your thoughts or beliefs about throwing. Is it actually OK with you? If your first thought is “no” then I invite you to get creative and come up with a situation in which throwing is actually OK with you. Perhaps it’s throwing crumpled paper into the trash or recycling can. Or maybe it’s throwing paper airplanes. It could be OK to throw lightweight puff-balls at a target on the wall. Or maybe it’s OK to go outside and throw a tennis ball. When you’ve discovered at least one throwing activity that works for you, that will be your initial redirect the next time your child attempts to throw something that isn’t OK to throw.

But do beware, having just one possibility for throwing is likely to create resistance in your child. It might work the first few times, but then your child will get bored and frustrated, feeling boxed in to only one way to express her frustration. Instead, I’d recommend coming up with two or three ways for your kids to express their frustration through throwing and then offer them choices when they are about to engage in a throwing activity that is not allowed.

I would love to hear some other ideas and strategies for how you’ve handled inappropriate throwing with your kids. Please share a story or comment below!

And have a wonderful week! Warm hugs, Shelly

2 comments
Mommaofthree
Mommaofthree

Absolutely agree with finding ways throwing can happen in the house! With our toddler I agree having soft indoor items that can be played with is a must...My 6 yr old loves to throw his laundry from his doorway towards the hamper to make baskets..we pretend it is a real basketball game and cheer for points! We also have made/decorated countless paper airplanes. We put a Nerf basketball hoop on the guest bedroom door and moved breakables away from that area of the house. We also love to gather all our stuffed animals and then the whole family splits into teams and has an indoor "snowball" fight, hiding behind furniture and hurling stuffed animals at each other...this seems to give our daughter a natural and encouraged way to express healthy female aggression..kinda fun to see her get into it! :)