Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care

Why do some children bite?

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Children bite for a variety of reasons.  When young children lack skills and strategies to communicate their feelings and needs effectively, this becomes a way of expressing frustration.

Young children are telling us what is happening to them as they grow. Infants may be telling us that their mouths hurt from teething.  Toddlers may be telling us that they need to be in a space that encourages them to move around, explore, and learn abut their environment.  Preschoolers may be telling us that they have seen or experienced biting and want to try it out.

Biting can also occur as a result of environmental conditions. Crowded, noisy, bright, or overstimulating environments may confuse or overexcite young children. Child/adult ratios that do not allow for close supervision can be unsafe and stressful. Learning materials, activities, and adult expectations that do not match children’s abilities, learning style or temperament may frustrate young children. Changes in the environment or routines that are not sensitive to young children’s needs can be upsetting. Schedules that do not match children’s needs may cause anxiety or boredom.

What is a child trying to tell us through biting?
Biting behavior can provide clues to how children are feeling and what they need from their environment to be successful  Powerful emotions are difficult for young children to manage and express.  These emotions may include:  anger, frustration, excitement, fear and anxiety.

When educators and parents understand what children are trying to tell them, they increase the chances of preventing and appropriately responding to biting behavior. Provide teething toys to relieve pains.  Provide opportunities to move and explore independently, and to make choices.  Allow a child to eat when hungry, sleep when tired, sit on your lap, or have enough time to finish an activity.  Acknowledge children’s frustration and give them the words to express their feelings.  Model the appropriate words to ask for something.  Provide consistent, nurturing relationships with responsive adults.  Recognize when children are unable to manage a situation on their own and intervene in a calm and caring manner.

Remember to create environments that match children’s individual developmental needs and interests.  Keep routines simple and consistent.  Limit the number of transitions for children and remember to give children an alone space and time for rest and relaxation.  Biting is usually a phase and shall pass in due time!


Posted by karen on Monday, January 04, 2010 10:24 PM

One thought on “Why do some children bite?

  1. I just became a toddler teacher a few months ago and I have some children in my class that bite. I figured out that one child bites when he can’t have his way or when he can’t have a toy. The other child that bites does it because he’s bored so I try to keep him busy all the time. I was very frustrated at the beginning because I couldn’t figure out what the problem was. After watching them like I hawk I figured and out and I’m glad I did 🙂