Presentations are best viewed with sound on.

  • When a Child Bites

  • When a Child Bites

    This presentation will cover:

    • Why do babies and children bite?
    • How to help prevent biting.
    • How to respond to biting.
    • What won’t help stop biting.
    • What to do if biting continues.
  • When a Child Bites

    Biting is a common behavior among babies and toddlers. There are many reasons why a child bites. How you respond can help guide your child in controlling his feelings and actions to decrease and eliminate biting.


    Why do you think that babies and children bite?


    There might be many reasons why a child bites. They may bite because their language and emotional skills are developing. Yet, some children may bite as part of their physical development as they begin to explore objects and toys with their mouths.

  • Actually...

    There are many reasons why a child might bite. Let’s learn about what can cause a child to bite.

  • Why Do Babies and Children Bite?

    Your child is developing language and emotional skills. Children three and under do not have the language skills to clearly communicate their feelings and emotions.

    For example, a child who bites may not be able to express the following feelings with words:

    • “I am angry because that child took away my toy.”
    • “I am frustrated that I can’t get the pieces into this puzzle.”
    • “I am excited to open all of these birthday presents.”
    • “I am feeling overwhelmed by all of the noise, lights, and people at this party.”
  • Why Do Babies and Children Bite?

    Babies learn by exploring and putting objects and toys in their mouth, because a baby's mouth is very sensitive. There might also be physical reasons for biting, such as

    • am in pain. I have a new tooth coming in.
    • I just want to chew on something hard; it makes my mouth feel good.
    • I am feeling tired. I usually take a nap at this time.

    How do you think that biting can be prevented?


    Use positive guidance strategies such as saying, “You feel tired and need a break.” Give the child items to bite, such as a teether ring. This approach can teach the child what they can bite safely, without hurting anyone.

    Be patient. Reducing and eliminating biting can take time, and you might need to try more than one strategy.

  • Actually...

    While biting is a common behavior among young children, biting the child, ignoring the child’s biting, or punishing the child will not teach the child that biting people is not okay.

    Use positive guidance strategies. Say, “You feel tired and need a break.” Then give the child an item to bite. This can teach the child what they can bite safely, without hurting anyone.

  • How to Prevent Biting

    Learning how to anticipate when your child might bite can help eliminate biting.

    Look for clues to when biting usually happens:

    • What happened right before?
    • Who and what was your child playing with?
    • Who was bit?
    • Where was your child?
    • Who was taking care of your child?
  • How to Prevent Biting

    Practice prevention by distracting your child with toys or other activities. Give your child something to chew on,
    such as:

    • A teether
    • A cold washcloth
    • Crunchy, healthy snacks at
      regular intervals throughout
      the day

    As you give one of these items to your
    child, say, “Here is something you can
    This will help her learn when
    biting is appropriate.

  • How to Prevent Biting

    When you notice that your child is feeling overwhelmed or may be close to biting, you can:

    • Help your child move to an area where there are fewer children.
    • Help your child communicate her needs with words; for example:
    “You feel tired and need a break.”
    “You are angry you can’t play with that truck right now.
    It is hard to wait your turn.”
  • How to Prevent Biting

    Talk and read to your child whenever you can! Spend quality time with your child reading books about biting. This will increase her vocabulary and language development.

    The following are some books that you can read to your child:

    • Teeth Are Not for Biting by Elizabeth Verdick
    • No Biting by Karen Katz
    • No Biting, Louise by Margie Palatini
    • The Way I Feel by Janan Cain

    You may find these books
    at your local library.


    What should you do when your child bites?


    If your child continues to bite, observe your child to learn where, when, and what events happened before and during the
    biting incident.

    Pay attention to the signals of when your child might bite and stay calm. Say, “I see you want to bite. Here is something that is OK to bite.” Then, provide the child with an item to bite, such as a cold washcloth. If another child was bit, comfort and care for the child who was bit. It is important to develop a plan to change the habit
    of biting.

  • Actually...

    Harsh punishments, labeling, or forcing a child to apologize is not teaching the child new skills, such as
    self-control, empathy, or proper items to chew.

    Let’s explore other ways to develop a plan to change the habit of biting.

  • How to Respond to Biting

    Some children may still continue to bite. When this happens, stay calm. It is normal to feel angry, worried, and frustrated, but responding with strong emotions will not help your child feel safe and in control.

  • How to Respond to Biting

    When your child bites, it is best to firmly, but gently enforce the limit. Say something like

    • “Biting hurts. Do not bite.”
    • Tell the child what they can bite (food, teether, etc.).

    Next, shift your focus and attention to the child or person who was bit. Showing concern and sympathy has two important effects:

    • Your child is not getting your attention
      by biting, and
    • It teaches your child empathy,
      or concern for others.
  • How to Respond to Biting

    It is
    to stay

    “Let’s find
    something that
    is OK to bite.”

    Provide child
    with item
    to bite.

    the child who
    was bit.

  • What Won’t Help Stop Biting

    Don’t bite your child to “teach” him or her what it feels like. Children imitate the behavior of the adults in their lives.

    Don’t use harsh punishment or shaming.

    Don’t label your child as a “Biter.” Your child may identify with the label and bite more often.

    Don’t give too much attention, even negative attention, to your child after an incident of biting. This can encourage biting by paying more attention to the child who bit and not the person who
    was bitten.

  • If Biting Continues

    Biting should start to decrease after age three.

    • If your child is over age three and still bites, or if you have tried many of the suggested solutions and biting has not decreased, contact your child’s pediatrician or a child development specialist for more help.

    Biting may persist longer if a child’s language skills
    are delayed.

    • If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language skills, contact your child’s pediatrician or a speech-language specialist for an assessment.

    Remember, learning a new behavior takes time.
    Be patient, calm, clear, and consistent in your message,

    “Ouch! Biting hurts.”

  • We hope this information has been helpful to you!

    Our When a Child Bites brochure and podcast has additional information to help you manage biting. To download or print the brochure, click here. To listen to the podcast, click here.

    To view another presentation, or explore more resources on parenting or early care and education, click here.