Care and

Positive Behaviour in Early Years

Top Tips for Parenting ‘Fussy Eaters’

Consistency! By having a consistent routine at mealtimes your child will know when to expect food and encourages good eating habits.

No distractions! It’s best to avoid distractions such as toys, games and television during meal and snack times.  Make sure that the eating environment is relaxed and calm.

Variety! Continually offer a good variety of healthy foods and allow your child to choose what they eat.  A full plate of food can be overwhelming, so start with a small amount at first.

Get them involved! Children love to help with food preparation tasks such as pouring, stirring and spreading. Children who are involved in preparing food are more likely to try it. Try growing vegetables and fruit as it is a fun way to help children learn where food comes from.

Don’t give up! It can take up to 10 times of seeing an unfamiliar food before a child feels comfortable enough to try it. Continue to offer new foods and consider different ways of presenting them.  Encourage good eating behaviours by praising them when they have eaten well.

No bribes! Try not to use foods as bribes, for example, ‘No pudding unless you eat your vegetables’. This makes the pudding more desirable than the vegetables.

Biting – why do children do it?

Biting is extremely common in the under 3's, and is most prevalent in the 1-2½ year age group. This type of unwanted (but not abnormal) behaviour is not a premeditated spiteful act in young child just simply a symptom of being 'immature'.  At around the age of 2 years old there is an emotional transition from dependant baby to assertive independent toddler, at this time a child is starting a process of individuation i.e., recognising himself as a separate being with needs and wants and a will of his own.  At this time toddlers lack the skills of impulse control and self-management.  Children bite for many reasons:

  • Curiosity – humans are curious by nature; young children may bite to discover more about the world around them.  They simply just want to touch, smell and taste!
  • Attention seeking – Children often misbehave in order to gain adult attention.  Being ‘good’ often gains less attention than misbehaving
  • Frustration – Some children who bite lack the skills to cope with situations.  They may have poor communication skills or cannot yet understand why they feel a certain way, this may lead to biting.
  • Copying – A young child who sees another child bite may think it’s a great idea and try it out for themselves.
  • Normal factors – such as teething, children get some relief by biting.  Adults should offer alternative things to chew on e.g. a teething ring or a rusk.

The most effective way to approach this behaviour is to react calmly and consistently as you would any other behaviour, avoiding shock and horror.

Other points to consider:

  • Do not punish your child for a biting incident that has happened at nursery, as it will have been dealt with at the time.
  • Talking naturally and informally about how biting hurts and that it isn’t a good thing to do, without dwelling on it, may help.
  • Look at social story books about the effects of biting.
  • Give plenty of praise and encouragement for good behaviour.
  • Never laugh or smile at a playful nip, biting should not be considered as a game.
  • If a child bites you, NEVER bite them back, this will only reinforce the behaviour.
  • If you are still concerned about your child biting and think it is part of a wider picture, it would be wise to seek help from your Health Visitor or GP.

Story books that focus on biting and promoting positive behaviour are:

  • Teeth are Not For Biting by Elizabeth Verdick
  • No Biting by Karen Katz
  • No Biting Louise by Margie Palatini.

For more information about biting please speak to your child’s key person who can provide you with our more detailed information sheet. Alternatively if you want to speak about your concerns with regards to your child biting or if your child has been bitten, please speak to your child’s key person or the Nursery managers.