What to Do If Your Child Is Biting Other Children at Daycare

Tips for Daycare Staff and Parents for Toddlers Who Bite

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Have you gotten that dreaded message from your toddler's daycare that she has been biting other kids? Or, are you a daycare provider and wonder what to do when this behavior arises?

Proper interventions can help many kids stop biting, but it's important not to do anything like punishing a toddler for biting or biting her back. See the tips below on what to do and what to avoid.

Staff Interventions to Stop Biting at Daycare

Toddlers are almost certainly too young for a lecture or even timeout. Some interventions may actually be reinforcing for biting behavior.

Instead, daycare staff can keep simple and use these tactics:

  • Try to intervene or distract her and say "No bite" firmly, but calmly, if they are about to bite. This means that someone has to keep an extra close eye on her or shadow her for a few days, being careful to do it in a way so that they don't know that they are getting the extra attention.
  • Say "No" or "No bite" firmly, but calmly, if they do bite.
  • After they bite, it can be a good idea to move them away from the other child and ignore them for a few minutes, although this isn't really a formal timeout like you would use for an older child
  • Remind them not to bite from time to time, including perhaps a short reminder that "Biting hurts."
  • Provide some praise and positive attention when they aren't biting and is playing nicely.
  • Keep to a good routine all day, including meals, naps, and playtime.
  • Avoid asking a parent to pick up the child and sending them home after they bite, since that can reinforce biting.

Parent Interventions for Biting At Daycare

It can also be helpful to know why and when the toddler is biting. Are they overtired? Are they teething? Did another child try to take their blanket or toy? Is anything going on at home that has them out of their routine that you could fix?

At home, be sure to also stick to a good routine and make sure they get a good night's sleep. Toddlers who are overly tired or stressed are more likely to bite at daycare. Since they aren't doing it at home anymore, there isn't a lot that you can do at home though.

Spending a few days with them, so that you can intervene and get them biting under control might be helpful, although they might simply start biting again when you aren't there. Or volunteer to help in another part of the daycare so one of their staff can watch your child and make sure they don't bite anyone for a few days.

You might also consider that her persistent biting could mean that this daycare isn't a good fit for them. Maybe it is too structured or not structured enough. Are there too many kids in the room?

Keep in mind that just because the daycare isn't a good fit doesn't mean it isn't a good daycare. They may be doing everything right and it just isn't working for your child for some reason.

Why You Should Avoid Overreacting

One of the worst things about having a biter is the way the parents of the kids who got bit make you feel. Unless their kids also bite, they typically don't understand that biting is a normal developmental behavior, is rarely dangerous to their child, and that almost any toddler can turn into a biter.

Try not to feel embarrassed or pay attention to the dirty looks you might get from the parents of the kids who got bit and just focus on helping your own child stop biting.

What You Need To Know About Biting

Biting is a normal behavior or phase for most younger children, which is the most important thing most parents need to know.

Other important things to know about biting include:

  • Younger children often bite when they are teething, overtired, jealous, frustrated, or angry. They can also bite simply see what happens when they bite, which is especially true of infants and younger toddlers, who may just be experimenting and exploring their world.
  • You should be careful not to overreact when your child bites, which can reinforce the biting because your child gets excited about the reaction it brings about.
  • Don't do anything like biting your child back, physically punish your child, or put anything in her mouth when she bites.
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Article Sources

  1. American Psychological Association, "Biting questions." February 2011

  2. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, "Fighting And Biting." April 2016

  3. National Association for the Education of Young Children, "Articles for Families on Behavior and Development, Understanding and Responding to Children Who Bite."

  4. Maine's University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, "Growing Ideas: OUCH! That hurts! — Biting." July 27, 2006

  5. Zero To Three, "Toddlers and Biting: Finding the Right Response." Feb. 22, 2016

  6. KidsHealth.org, "For Parents: Biting." June 2018

Additional Reading

  • Understanding and Responding to Children Who Bite. National Association for the Education of Young Children. 

  • Solomons, Hope C. EdD. Biting in Day Care Centers: Incidence, Prevention, and Intervention. Journal of Pediatric Health Care. Volume 5, Issue 4, July–August 1991, 191–196