Biting is a behavior that can cause a great deal of angst in parents and teachers alike. There are several reasons for biting at different stages of development. 

Babies may bite when they are teething or exploring. I have heard parents make silly, affectionate statements like, “I love you so much, I could just eat you up,” and they proceed to pretend to gobble the child up. The baby then imitates the parent’s behavior.

Babies are also learning that they can make things happen. They may bite simply to see the reaction that they get from another child.

With toddlers it is different. I have learned over the years that one of the primary reasons toddlers bite is not enough gross motor activity. I know this sounds strange but the brain and body innately know what is needed to grow and develop in healthy ways. Toddlers are made to climb, run, roll, jump, kick and throw balls. When we don’t meet their needs in appropriate ways, they will get what they need one way or the other. Biting or “chomping” is a form of deep muscle stimulation.

To date, 13 child care centers have reported to me that they have shut down biting in their toddler classrooms when they follow my advice to provide things to climb on, things to crawl through, things to roll over, play dough, rhythm band instruments, and more outdoor play. Sometimes it is as little as getting a little Tykes slide and letting children pull themselves up the incline. Letting them snack on beef jerky (or similar) is also helpful.

When children move beyond the toddler years, they may bite due to lack of language and social skills. Children with language delay are often left out of play. Their frustration leads them to bite because they have no words to communicate their wishes and needs.

Giving them the right words and behaviors to ask for what they need, invite someone to play, say “no” in friendly manner and solve conflict can de-escalate the biting.


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