Why Children Bite

On Biting | A Family Resource from The Sunshine House

One of the most distressing reports a parent of a toddler or two-year-old can receive is that your child has been bitten. It can be even more distressing to be told your child has bitten another child or an adult.

Biting in this age group is a very common behavior. It’s normal and developmentally-appropriate, even though it can be alarming, both for the family of the child who is bitten and for the family of the child that bites.

Why do children bite?

There are many reasons why a toddler may bite. Young children rely on non-verbal communication to express wishes and feelings. Often they bite because they simply cannot communicate what they want, need or how they feel. It could be because they’re tired, hungry or feeling ill. Or because they’re bored, or can’t have something they want. Sometimes children bite out of curiosity, to express affection, or they’re experimenting to see what will happen. Sometimes the explanation is as simple as the child is teething and it feels good to bite down on something.

Children under the age of three generally have a limited understanding of the effects of their behavior on others, and they simply don’t understand that biting hurts. They bite not knowing the effect it has.

What does the Sunshine House do about biting?

Unfortunately, biting can happen very quickly and often without any warning, so we take every precaution. We do this by:

  • Noticing children’s moods and needs, and helping them learn words to express those
  • Spending time with children to help them get along with each other
  • Creating engaging classrooms
  • Having duplicates of toys
  • Modeling and naming pro-social behaviors
  • Planning interesting experiences

What happens if my child is bitten or bites someone else?

If a bite occurs, we are trained on how to respond to both children to lessen the possibility that the incident will be repeated. If there is a bite, we will communicate with both sets of parents so you’re aware of the situation and what we are doing in response.

Often when a child bites, she is trying to communicate something with the behavior. This message could be anything from “My gums hurt” to “I want to play with you, but I don’t know how to ask.” Our role as early childhood professionals is to figure out what a child is trying to communicate and address those needs.

If a biting situation begins to occur more regularly, we will partner with the child’s family to work toward a solution.

If your child has been bitten, you may want to know who has bitten them. However, please know that confidentiality prohibits us from sharing this information.

It is our primary goal to keep your child, and all the children in our care safe. We also want to give children the tools they need to be successful. For one child, that may mean helping learn not to bite. For another it may mean supporting language development. Our mission is to provide quality care and education – every child, every family, every day. And we are honored to be a part of your family. 

Where can I find additional information on biting?

For more information on biting, consult the websites below or ask your Center Director. We have a library of information on these topics, and your Director can print additional resources for you and your family.