We often see little children throwing any and everything within their arm’s reach. They literally throw the object, watch it fall, walk up to it and pick it up and throw it again. My own child is going through the stage where she wants to be picked up by an adult and then throw some object down to the floor from that height, and repeat it as many times as someone is willing to pick it up and give it back to her. Her favorite ‘pick up’ companion is her uncle who doesn’t tire from picking up the pen she keeps flinging in every direction a million times.
The “throwing arm” comes into action sometime around the first birthday and can go on for as long as it is encouraged. Encouragement doesn’t necessarily mean verbal praise or other obvious forms; it can even be the simple act of picking up the thrown object and giving it back to the child. Every time the object is given back to the child it is thrown down in that same second. It can be “cute” to people who don’t live with the child, but to those of us who deal with new baby/child challenges every day, it can get tiresome. We have seen plenty of this, haven’t we?
Let’s look at what is happening and try to understand what is happening with the child who begins and continues to throw. Throwing is a developmental milestone (yes, unfortunately) and the child is learning a lot from just this simple play. The gross motor skill required for the child to throw, along with the judgment of how force and swing work, are observed and repeatedly practiced by the child. Its physics in the simplest form. And what about the clatter or thud of the object when it hits the floor? Have you noticed the child pause for a moment watching the object fall and listen to the sound before picking it up again? Depending on the material it is made of and the kind of object or floor it hits, the sound varies vastly.
So, obviously, we mustn’t stop the child’s inner urge to throw. But, what about the breakables and expensive electronics? We can’t not stop the child from throwing those. So, what is to be done? Well, just as you decide where your child walks, what your child eats or what the child is exposed to in terms of any development, you must also decide what is okay for your child to repeatedly throw.
How do we do that? Let’s take it step by step.
- Collect objects that you think are okay for the child to throw such as small and light weight balls, crushed waste paper, empty plastic bottle, etc. Keep in mind that variety is encouraged.
- Get three or four baskets/trays of the same kind and colour. Keep one or two throw objects in each basket place them in different parts of the house within the child’s reach. Make sure to keep changing / rotating the objects in the baskets every week, but the basket must remain consistent.
- Every time your child picks up a non-throw object, take it away and instead walk up to the nearest throw objects basket, take things out and show the child. This re-directing has to be done each and every time till the child understands that some objects can be thrown (the ones in the basket) and others are not allowed.
- Make sure not to participate in the child’s throwing activity by picking up the object and giving it back to her each time. The child needs to pick up the object and throw/play with it by herself.
- Once the child seems to be done with the throwing activity and moves away from it, pick up the objects and replace them in the basket in the same place in front of the child. Don’t be too hasty in putting things back because it may get the child excited again and become a game of you putting things back and the child throwing them out.
- Slowly involve the child in putting the objects back in the basket along with you (one object in your hand and one in hers) and eventually it will become a habit for the child to put things back after playing.
Remember, always, that an unhurried consistency is the best way to create healthy habits in children.