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How do I stop my 16-month-old from throwing toys?

My 16-month-old son has started throwing toys at my husband and I as "fun." We tell him "no" but he seems to think that is fun too. Is this a new stage? What can we do to teach him this is wrong?

Greg Severson | Pediatrician

Greg Severson

As motor skills evolve (crawling and walking), children from 9-18 months of age begin exploring the world, learning they can have significant effects on objects and other people. 

Tantrums are common

They get into things and places the parent previously kept them away from, and as a result start hearing the word “No.”  Because the passion to explore is so strong, the child often ignores the “No.”

When the parent enforces the request, the child may become frustrated; screaming, throwing objects, or falling to the floor and flailing his/her arms and legs about in protest. Tantruming is very common in toddlers. 

The toddler is a performer

Toddlers are performers (constantly looking for attention). When their thrashing arms and legs make contact or their open mouth bites down on someone (often the person telling them “no”) the response from the person at the receiving end can be very dramatic. 

What a way to get attention and impact the world! The child may now start purposely hitting, biting, kicking, or throwing things - just to see what will happen. The child often laughs, because he is pleased with himself. 

This is a game to him

The intent is not to hurt or injure others, the child is playing a game.  Unfortunately, this game could result in serious injury to another person or child. You don't want your child to be the child who is kicked out of daycare due to hitting or biting.  

What's a parent to do?

Your child will choose behaviors that result in an enjoyable response from you. I recommend time-outs, distraction and plain old ignoring the behavior.

Parents teach their children in many ways. Toddlers need to be taught appropriate ways to behave.

Dr. Severson gives detailed advice on handling tantrums and unacceptable behavior in toddlers.

Read more answers by Dr. Severson