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The "food fling" game is quite common. Babies this age are driven to learn how the world around them works. When your son is tossing his pasta off the high chair tray, he is learning about the physical properties of objects: Where do the noodles go? Do they always fall on the floor? Will they bounce back? What sound do they make? The way to set limits with a 9-month-old is through your reaction to his behavior. Babies learn early on that their actions can cause positive or negative responses, so the less emotional and more matter-of-fact you are, the more likely it is that the behavior will stop. When your baby starts to throw food, you can say with a straight face, "No throwing." If he continues, simply take the food off the tray and say, "I guess you're all done." Then take him out of the high chair and offer him objects he can drop or throw (e.g., a foam ball) in a place that is acceptable to you, such as outside. If you do this consistently, he will put two and two together and learn that food throwing in the high chair means his meal goes away. If you are concerned that he hasn't eaten enough, offer a healthy snack shortly thereafter. If he's hungry, he'll eat.
Originally published in American Baby magazine, August 2006.
The answers from our experts are for educational purposes only. Please always refer to your child's pediatrician and mental health expert for more in-depth advice.