Let’s Look at Biting and Young Children

Biting is an instinctive behavior often seen in infants, toddlers, and 2-year olds. They bite in order to cope with a challenge or fulfill a need. Gaining self-control and developing problem-solving skills supports a child outgrowing the response of biting. It is unusual for a preschool age (3-5 year old) child to continue to bite. I recommend that a preschool age child be evaluated for developmental concerns if biting is a continual behavior. Data says 1 in 10 young children bite. Studies also indicate that between a third and a half of all toddlers in child care are bitten by another child. So while biting isn’t necessarily uncommon, it is still an upsetting behavior. Parents of a biter get embarrassed and worry that they may lose care. Providers fear parental anger, blame and even legal action. The parents of the bitten child get upset and worry about their child’s safety.

In my 30+ years as a family child care provider, I only experienced a couple of what I think of as true “biting” situations. I’ve had multiple children that have gone through heavy teething, children that were very oral explorers with everything being explored via mouth, but only a couple where there was impact to the other children. When the first of these situations occurred, I did not find available training or information from my network of providers that added to what I already knew, so I logged some computer time searching out the resources I needed to help this child, the parents and myself.

The purpose of this training is to share information about adapting your environment, communicating with all parent of children in your care and supporting your “biter”.

While biting is not a behavior we ever encourage, it becomes a challenging behavior when it causes harm to another. There are strategies that we should be aware of that can be used for any challenging behavior at any age:

I’ve found it’s good to have a general action plan that can help initially guide my actions with any challenging behavior that causes injury to self or others. Later I can develop a more detailed and child specific plan.

As other providers have pointed out during discussions about “biting”, after taking all the steps possible no child or provider should have to endure injury or pain for whatever the (known or unknown) reason for biting may be.  With continual biting don’t hesitate to contact CDS for a developmental screening or make that tough decision to terminate care.


Assess Reasons for Biting

Categories of Biting

Action Plan

Observation Builds Your Action Plan

Member Reflection Activity form OR Non-member Reflection Activity form

%d bloggers like this: