No parent wants to hear their child has been bitten by one of their peers, or worse, has bitten another child.

Biting is a common issue among children aged 1-3 years. It can manifest at home or at childcare. It is important for parents to understand that biting isn’t generally a sign of naughtiness.

Toddlers biting at daycare is stressful for all involved. In the case of a biter, parents feel a loss of control over their child’s actions, embarrassment, stress and guilt.

Parents of a bitten child feel equally stressed, guilty and emotional. They also feel a lack of control over not protecting their child from being bitten, but must work with their childcare provider to ensure being bitten will not be an ongoing problem for their child.

Biting children is stressful for childcare providers. No centre wants to gain a reputation as one that condones or allows toddlers to bite with no intervention or repercussions, or doesn’t protect children from biting.

So why do children bite? What can parents do if their child has been bitten at daycare, or has bitten another child?

Vacancy.Care takes a look at the reasons children bite. We delve into the ins and outs of toddler biting at daycare and how parents should approach the situation.

Why is my child biting another child at daycare

Even children who have never been biters can unexpectedly sink their teeth into one of their peers at daycare. Parents may ask themselves “why is my child biting another child at daycare?”

Biting isn’t generally a sign of disobedience. Children bite for physical reasons, such as to deal with teething, as a way to deal with frustration, boredom or anger, or simply to explore.

Babies and young toddlers learn by putting just about everything in their mouth, so biting is a natural part of development and a progression of their curiosity.

Table 1 outlines some common reasons why young children bite.

Table 1

Curiosity and natural development Biting is a natural part of a baby’s curiosity, and development. They use ‘oral exploration’ to learn. Biting is a progression of this.
Cause and effect From around 12 months, babies start to learn cause and effect. If they bite another child, it causes a strong reaction from another child, parent or educator.
Teething Teething is often painful for young children. Biting applies pressure on the gums and soothe the pain.
Lack of attention A baby may bite to get attention or a reaction from a parent, carer or educator. At this age, they do not understand the difference between positive and negative attention.
Teething Teething can continue to cause pain for toddlers. Biting applies pressure on the gums and soothe the pain.
Frustration Children become frustrated for so many reasons: lack of communication skills, too much stimulation, too many other children in one place and needs not being met.
Lack of communication skills Children who cannot yet talk find it difficult to express their feelings, such as anger or excitement. Biting is an alternative to expressing emotion through language.
To seek attention Like babies, toddlers who do not feel they are getting enough attention may bite to get attention or a reaction from an adult.
Overstimulation If children are too stimulated in their environment, they may bite as a way to relieve the stress of too much excitement and stimulation.
Boredom Along with overstimulation, children bite when they are bored, to break up monotony or get an adult’s attention for play.

Toddler bites when excited

Children are most likely to bite due to excitement when they are under 15 months of age. They can become overly stimulated and overly excited, and bite as a result. They may also bite because they are unable to express their excitement verbally.

If a baby or toddler bites when excited, parents need to remember they do not understand their actions at this age. Use a firm tone of voice to say ‘no’ and remain calm.

Biting when excited generally stops once the child learns simple language and verbal expression.

How to handle biting at daycare

Biting is viewed as negative behaviour and often tackled using punishment, negative language and labelling. Some parents will definitely admit to biting their child back!

Biting should not be dealt with using punishment, at home or at childcare, nor should a child be labelled as ‘a biter.’

Punishment, labelling and shaming only encourages and intensifies this behaviour, so is counterproductive. Plus, young children are still growing in confidence, and anger can damage their self-confidence, cause feelings of confusion and even escalate the behaviour.

Instead, any approach to biting, at home or childcare, should be calm, consistent and positive. Try and use positive reinforcement rather than negative language. Staying calm will help children deal with their emotions positively, rather than with negative behaviour.

Curbing biting is already a challenge for parents – a challenge that is even harder if the child attends childcare. Suddenly, parents have to deal with the stress of their child biting others, a loss of control over the situation and working with the centre to find a solution.

A quality child care provider (link to live article when available) will have a policy and procedure for biting.

Staff and educators need to know how to prevent and stop biting among children in care, but how to communicate

Ideally, a centre’s policy:

  • Is consistent with the centre’s philosophy for guiding behaviour among children.
  • Acknowledges biting as a part of the child’s development.
  • Does not include punishment to eliminate biting.
  • Is clear in its approach to biting and outlines the steps staff and educators will take to managing biting.
  • Maintains a commitment to help all children who bite for the safety and wellbeing of their peers.
  • Maintains a professional approach to instances of biting.
  • Uses positive language and actions in response to biting.
  • Encourages parents to work collaboratively with the centre when biting occurs.

In the next section, we take a look at how to stop biting at daycare.

How to stop a toddler from biting at daycare

First and foremost – parents, educators and staff need to work together to stop a toddler from biting at daycare.

If the parent is working overtime to stop their child biting at home, but there is no support from the childcare provider – or vice versa – the challenge to stop biting will only intensify.

Parents and childcare staff need to be open and honest about biting. If a child has bitten another at daycare, inform the parents immediately. If a child has started biting a parent or sibling at home, parents should mention this information to the centre.

Communicating with parents about biting means they can tackle the issue at home.

Communicating with childcare staff and educators means they will anticipate, be better prepared for and prevent biting.

Table 2 outlines some common reasons for biting, and how parents and the childcare provider can work together to stop biting.

Table 2

Cause Response: Parents Response: Childcare
Teething Provide cold teething ring or teething toy. Apply a teething gel to the gums. Provide childcare provider with cold teething ring or teething toy to give to the child. Allow the centre to apply teething gel.
Lack of communication skills Encourage development of language skills through play, songs, stories and reading. Use non-verbal cues, repeat words or sounds and make a note of any new words. Ensure provider is encouraging language development through play, songs, stories and reading.
Frustration Encourage children to express feelings verbally. Ensure they receive enough 1:1 time during the day and use positive reinforcement. Encourage children to express feelings verbally. Ensure they receive enough 1:1 time during the day from educators and use positive reinforcement.
Cause and Effect Use play and toys that cause a reaction to explore cause and effect. These include pop-up toys and musical instruments, plus activities such as colouring, water play, painting and blocks, so the child can see a process happening. Ensure children have access to a range of toys that cause a reaction to explore cause and effect. These include pop-up toys and musical instruments, plus activities such as colouring, water play, painting and blocks, so the child can see a process in action.
Lack of stimulation Ensure children are stimulated with a range of open-ended activities, sensory play and favourite toys. Ensure children have access to their favourite toys, are kept stimulated with a range of activities at daycare and sensory play and favourite.
Overstimulation Remove the child from the stimulating environment. Encourage quiet play times. Remove the child from the stimulating environment. Encourage quiet play times at daycare.
Lack of attention Ensure child is receiving enough 1:1 time at home, with age appropriate activities. Avoid giving too much attention to the act of biting. Ensure child is receiving enough 1:1 time at daycare, with age appropriate activities.

Unfortunately, if a child bites due to a lack of attention, or due to too many other children in the group, parents may have to consider seeking alternative care arrangements with a smaller ratio of children.

This action is somewhat extreme, however. A quality childcare provider (link to live article) will take as many steps as possible to prevent and stop biting among children, which are outlined below.


  • Get to know the various personalities of children in the group and understand potential personality clashes.
  • Be aware of new children to the group, transitioning children and the dynamics of transitions from playtime to quiet time.
  • Know which children have tendencies to bite and the triggers for biting (but avoid labelling as ‘a biter’.)
  • Actively supervise children at all times.

Immediate action after biting:

  • Respond appropriately and immediately, as per the centre’s policy and procedure guidelines.
  • Communicate with other staff and educators.
  • Practice consistency among educators, both in approach to biting and language.
  • Attend to the bitten child first.
  • Attend to any wounds and comfort them.
  • Respond to the child who has bitten using eye contact and clear language.
  • Limit the amount of immediate attention on them to avoid them biting or displaying further negative behaviour to gain attention.
  • Avoid any response that encourages or reinforces further biting (such as biting back.)
  • Reiterate that this behaviour is unacceptable.
  • Take the time to acknowledge positive behaviour that is not related to the biting incident.
  • Record the incident, taking as many details about the circumstances, staff and children involved.
  • Inform parents/carers.

Engagement with parents:

  • Keep communication open and honest and encourage parents to reciprocate.
  • Explain the centre’s approach as outlined in the biting policy and procedure – what, when, why and how any action will happen.
  • Discuss any reasons for biting with parents, including anything happening at home.
  • Discuss the centre’s approach to teaching children how to protect themselves against biting.

Toddler won’t stop biting at daycare

When a toddler won’t stop biting at daycare, parents and educators should take further steps to prevent the behaviour.

It is imperative parents and centre staff are on the same page to stop biting. While parents should be made aware that biting is common at this age, they also need to take steps at home to prevent and stop biting, or it will continue to be a problem in care.

Parents can ask their care provider to monitor their child. Record when and why they bite to identify triggers, social factors and give an update about what action was taken, and by who, when their child bites another.

For ongoing biting, seek professional guidance, such as the family doctor. Childcare providers with an ongoing biting problem can seek help from the Australian Children’s Education and Care Authority (ACECQA).

No biting song

Some childcare providers use a ‘no biting song’ to positively reinforce intolerance to biting.

There are several available from the internet, or creative parents and childcare educators might like to make up their own.

The tune should be catchy and easy for a toddler to remember, but with strong emotive words and a message that reinforces why we don’t bite. It should also include positive reinforcement, such as what we can bite, and what to do instead of biting.

Some words to use in a no biting song include:

  • Hurt/pain
  • Friends
  • No biting
  • Don’t bite
  • Biting hurts
  • Upset

Here are three ‘no biting’ songs available on YouTube:

1 year old biting

How to get a 1 year old to stop biting

Children aged 12 months and under bite for different reasons to those of 2-3 year olds. Therefore, different methods of discipline are required.

How do you discipline a one year old that bites? Biting is a result of natural development and curiosity, rather than being emotive or reflecting a lack of attention. The challenge for parents is to understand the reasons for biting and take appropriate action.

If a child aged one is biting because they are teething, offer them a cold teething ring, toy or teething gel. Parents with an overtired baby who bites could try reinforcing set nap times. If the baby is biting due to hunger, feed them.

See Table 2 for more causes and appropriate courses of action.

Some steps for parents to take include:

  • Staying calm and be consistent, regardless of the age of the child.
  • Telling them ‘no’ in a firm voice.
  • Removing their mouth from whatever they are biting.
  • Putting them down in a safe place. These actions take the attention away from the behaviour, therefore may stop them repeating this behaviour to get attention.
  • Repeat if they continue to bite.
  • Use praise to reinforce positive behaviour.

2 year old biting

How to stop a 2 year old from biting

2 year old are no longer biting out of curiosity, but rather for reasons such as attention, hunger, overstimulation and boredom.

The reasons for biting may be different to that of a baby, but it is equally important for parents to understand why their 2 year old is biting. This will determine how to stop a 2 year old from biting.

Feed a hungry toddler something crunchy they can bite on, such as crackers, apple, pear or carrot sticks.

A frustrated toddler bites because they can’t find the words to express their feelings. Look at what they are doing or trying to achieve to understand the reasons for biting.

An overstimulated toddler will benefit from being removed from the environment, being given a light activity, puzzle or game to distract them or engaging in sensory play can help calm them down.

See Table 2 for more causes and appropriate courses of action.

By 2 years, however, children’s vocabulary is much more advanced. They start to understand words such as ‘no’ and ‘hurt’. Use clear language outlining why they should not bite, and be calm yet firm.

Some steps for parents to take include:

  • Staying calm and be consistent.
  • Telling them ‘no’ in a firm voice.
  • Using clear language and expressing why we shouldn’t bite.
  • If they continue to bite, turn your attention away from them.
  • Give them a distraction such as a game, puzzle or read them a book.
  • Use praise to reinforce positive behaviour.

3 year old bites

How to stop 3 year old from biting

By aged 3, most children have stopped biting, or don’t bite as much.

If children are still biting at 3, the cause tends to be related to frustration, anger and fear. They bite as a defence mechanism against other children, or due to a change in circumstances at home, such as a new baby.

Parents wondering how to stop a 3 year old from biting need to understand the reasons behind biting. At this age, language development has advanced from a few words to entire sentences, and they may be able to tell you why they bite you, another adult or another child.

Encourage your child to express their feelings verbally, rather than with biting. Watch them and identify triggers for biting, such as

Some steps for parents to take include:

  • Staying calm and be consistent.
  • Telling them ‘no’ in a firm voice.
  • Using clear language and expressing why we shouldn’t bite.
  • Not giving the biting further attention after the immediate response.
  • Ensuring the child has plenty of stimulating activities to prevent boredom.
  • Using praise to reinforce positive behaviour.

Toddlers biting themselves: Baby biting fingers and hands

Children who bite themselves do so for many of the same reasons they bite others: oral exploration, teething, frustration and cause and effect.

Babies tend to bite their fingers and hands during periods of oral exploration, hunger cues and frustration.

Teething babies bite their hands and fingers to ease the pain. Give them a teething ring or toy, or rub a teething gel onto the gums to ease the pain. Try to encourage them from biting their hands, but this can prove somewhat pointless!

Why do toddlers bite themselves

Toddlers bite themselves due to painful teething, frustration, overstimulation and as a way to express their feelings. They bite themselves to learn about cause and effect and gain a reaction from parents or carers.

Toddlers also bite when they feel frustrated, are unable to express their feelings or even when they are excited.

Toddler bites self when angry

Some toddlers bite themselves, other children or carers when they are angry. They get angry at not being able to verbally express themselves, angry about a change at home, such as a new baby, or get angry when they are overtired.

Avoid using harsh punishment to discipline a toddler who has bitten themselves or another child or an adult when angry. Instead, find out why they are biting themselves and respond accordingly.

For example, if they are feeling left out due to a new baby in the family, ensure they are receiving enough attention from parents and when at childcare. Look out for potential biting triggers and collaborate with daycare to prevent biting.

Toddler bites when excited

Other toddlers bite when they are excited. Toddlers get excited about any number of reasons and may bite themselves or others as a result.

Look for triggers of biting due to excitement, such as an overly stimulating environment or seeing a friend or favourite toy.

Toddler bite marks

Finding toddler bite marks is a huge shock for parents. It is important to determine if the bite marks are self-inflicted, or inflicted by another child, either at home or at childcare.

Older toddlers can tell a parent or carer who has bitten them, while parents of younger children and children without siblings or regular visitors will need to consult the childcare provider.

Remain calm, and avoid getting angry at the daycare provider, if this is where the biting has occurred. There is no point getting stressed about biting and deflecting stress onto your child and other children.

They may simply not be aware of a biting incident. Discuss any action the daycare will take to prevent further incidents of biting, and how they will monitor the child.

Bite marks will fade after a few days, and apart from the initial pain, are unlikely to cause further pain. If there is a scab or open wound (although this is unlikely among young toddlers) clean and dress the wound and take the child to your GP for further treatment.

If a serious bite occurs at childcare, they will apply first aid and get in contact with you immediately to discuss the incident and any further treatment required.

In summary

The two biggest points for parents to remember if their child bites are to stay calm, and avoid harsh punishment.

Find out the reasons for biting, respond accordingly and importantly, work with your childcare provider to determine the best course of action for biting.

Biting is not a sign of ill discipline, but rather a result of emotional and environmental factors.

Vacancy.Care cannot prevent biting among your children, but we hope this information will better prepare you for an instance of biting in your family.

Consultation and communication with your childcare provider is vital. By working together, you the facility can nip biting in the bud and get back to enjoying a stress-free childcare experience with your child.