What To Do When Toddlers Bite
By Robin Hewitt Temple, Early Childhood Educator
Most adults see biting as super aggressive and inappropriate. We often react in a way that is actually not helpful. We get as mad and as frustrated as the toddler. There is often blame placed on the teacher(s), the biter, and the parent(s). Toddlers are developing language skills and they are often frustrated by the inability to communicate their wants and needs. A toddler may also be teething and doesn’t understand that someone else’s arm is not a teething toy!
We must realize that it is developmentally appropriate for a toddler to bite. As educators, we need parents to know this and communicate it often. Suspend judgment and blame of child and family. Build a great relationship with the family as this is paramount to a high-quality early education program.
Tips for educators when you have a biting incident:
- Remain calm.
- Help the child who did the biting to identify the problem.
- Console and comfort the child who was bitten. Offer some ice if needed. If the skin breaks, follow your center's protocol.
- Model the appropriate words to use to describe the emotions involved.
- Calmly communicate that biting hurts.
- Offer the child something appropriate to bite on.
- Always follow up with an accident/incident report.
Tips for parents/family members of the child who did the biting:
- Communicate with your child’s teacher. It’s important to express your feelings too.
- Understand that biting is an age-appropriate response, remain calm.
- Do not feel guilty.
- Be consistent with the teacher in your reaction to biting. Use a calm tone to communicate that biting hurts. It helps to be on the same page!
Emotionally charged events are inevitable in a toddler classroom. By forging trusting relationships with the children in your care and their families, you’ll be better prepared to have positive outcomes. Parents need to trust that you are a professional and you are caring for ALL the children in your classroom. Just remember, biting is developmentally appropriate for toddlers!
Here are some resources that might be helpful:
Teeth are Not for Biting Board Book
Robin's philosophy is child initiated, play-based learning with high-quality interactions that scaffold learning without interrupting. She has been practicing for years and owns an early learning center in Massachusetts. She is currently living in Fairbanks, Alaska.
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