Biting can be fairly common among children and can be a concern for staff. Biting can often be painful and frightening for the child who has been bitten. It can also be frightening for the child who bites, because it upsets the child and can make adults cross. Biting happens for different reasons with different children and under different circumstances.
Reasons why children may bite
Babies and toddlers learn by touching, smelling, hearing and tasting. If you give a baby a toy, one of the first things they will do is put it in their mouth. Tasting or mouthing objects is something all children do. Young children do not always understand the difference between gnawing on a toy and biting a person.
Children begin teething around the ages of four to seven months. Swelling gums can be tender and can cause a great deal of discomfort. Babies sometimes find relief from this discomfort by chewing on something and sometimes the object they chew is a person. Children of this age do not understand the difference between chewing on a toy or a person.
- Cause and effect
Around the age of twelve months, babies become interested in finding out what happens when they do something. When they bang a spoon on a table they discover that it makes a loud sound. When they drop a toy from their cot, they discover that it falls. They may also discover that when they bite someone they get a reaction.
Older toddlers may sometimes bite to get attention. When children are in situations where they feel they are not receiving enough attention they often find a way to make others take notice. Being ignored is not fun and biting is a quick way to become the centre of attention, even if it is negative attention.
Older toddlers love to imitate others. Watching others and trying to do what they do is a great way to learn things. Some children see others bite and decide to try it out themselves.
Toddlers are trying so hard to be independent; “mine” and “me do it” are favourite words. Learning to do things independently, making choices and needing control over situations are part of growing up and biting is a powerful way to control others. If you want a toy or want a playmate to leave you alone or move out of your way, it is a quick way to get what you want.
Young children experience a lot of frustration and growing up is a struggle. Drinking from a cup is great, but sucking from a bottle is also wonderful. Sometimes it would be nice to remain a baby. Toddlers do not always have good control over their bodies and cannot always express themselves. A loving pat sometimes turns into a push and they sometimes experience difficulty in asking for things or help. They have not yet learned how to interact with others. At times, when they are unable to find the words to express their feelings, they resort to hitting, pushing or biting.
A child’s world can be stressful. A lack of interesting things to do or not enough interaction with adults is a stressful situation for children. Children also experience traumatic events in their lives, such as bereavement, moving to a new home, or even starting a new nursery. Biting is one way to express feelings and relieve tension. Young children are not always able to fully understand what they are feeling so they just act up.
Children of less than four years may not be able to differentiate between a positive or negative reaction.
When a child is bitten
For the child who has been bitten:
The children will be separated.
The child will be comforted and first aid administered if needed.
If age appropriate, the child will receive an apology from the child who bit them.
The incident will be recorded in the Accident Book and the parents/carers will be informed at the end of the session.
For the child who has bitten:
The children will be separated.
A member of staff will take the child away from the child who has been bitten and in a calm quiet voice tell the child “one of the nursery rules is – we do not bite” they will be helped to understand why we do not bite and will be encouraged to apologise to the chid they have bitten.
The incident will be recorded in the incident book. The parents/carer will be informed of the incident at the end of the session.
The incident will be recorded in the Incident Book to help establish if there are any patterns in routine or behaviour that may occur leading up to a biting incident.
When a child is bitten we will use the WHO, WHAT, WHEN AND WHERE method to hopefully pinpoint the problem.
Who was involved?
What happened before or after?
How was the situation handled?
When did the biting happen?
Where did it happen?
If biting continues:
Staff will review the confidential Incident Book regularly and plans for future responses will be discussed.
Reviews may be used to write an Individual Behaviour Plan that will outline:
An understanding of what the child is trying to achieve or communicate through biting.
How the environment can be adapted to better meet the child’s needs.
How the child can be encouraged to use more appropriate behaviours.
How the child will be rewarded when appropriate behaviours are used.
How staff respond when a biting incident occurs. Responsive strategies will include relocation, offering choices, distraction.
Group play may be kept to short periods.
This policy was adopted on October 2012
Updated/reviewed August 2018
Manager J Nolan-Davies