The problem started at a little play area when my son was about 18 months old. He decided that throwing toys was fun. Fortunately, he was not throwing toys at anyone in particular but on a table that was surrounded by innocent bystanders. I took him over to another area of the room to distract him, and before we knew it, it was time to leave for his nap. So no real concern.
A few weeks passed and I thought nothing of that incident until he did it again at this same children’s play area. This time his throws were a little more air born and much closer to hitting other children who were playing. I asked him to stop and told him we don’t throw toys, but addressing the situation like this didn’t do anything but cause a minor tantrum on the floor. I talked with the teacher, and she suggested telling him what he can throw.
Once he started throwing again, I took the teacher’s advice and told my son, “You can’t throw toys, but if you want, you can come throw these soft blocks?!” Of course, he had no interest in throwing soft blocks; he wanted to throw toys instead. Disappointed and concerned, I went home and talked with my husband. This is when we came up with a game called Throw the Missing Sock Ball into the Laundry Basket. Basically, I rolled up every lonely sock we had into a ball. We all had a great time throwing them into the laundry basket, and he even threw the socks at us so we could catch them. He enjoyed this the most because of the facial expressions we made before he threw them.
It was at that point my husband and I looked into buying one of those little basketball hoops that you hang off the door, but we quickly realized they would be too tall for him. A great alternative: the Little Tikes mini basketball hoop that comes with three balls. My son fell in love with his basketball hoop, and he and my husband would play every night before bed. Because of this, he didn’t throw a toy again… until he did, about a month or so later.
Luckily it happened at our home and no one was hurt, but I realized we hadn’t been playing basketball as regularly anymore. Immediately after he threw the toy, I said, “We don’t throw toys, if you want to throw, you can throw a ball.” He wasn’t interested in playing basketball in the moment, but later that evening I reintroduced the idea, and we played for 20 minutes or so. Crisis averted.
Bottom line: sometimes kids just need to get things out of their system, and it’s our jobs as parents to direct these needs in a way that keeps us all safe.
So here is the recipe we used to stop our child from throwing:
Step 1: Identify the behavior and correct it immediately.
Step 2: Tell your child what they can do instead.
Step 3: Create an activity where they can safely throw things.
Step 4: Join in on the activity. Make it fun for yourself, so it doesn’t feel like yet another thing you have to do. For instance, I personally made it fun by seeing how many balls I could get into the hoop before my son made one, and I would see how many I could get in a row with my non-dominant hand, etc.
We still play basketball, and haven’t had any “bad throwing behaviors,” but hitting has begun to rear its head…. Maybe a future post on that???