Toddlers shove food in their mouth and pack the food in their cheeks and mouth as they are learning to eat on their own and they also lack the sensory awareness and/or tongue coordination to fully chew and swallow certain foods.
Another reason for shoving food in their mouth as a toddler is because the toddler is experiencing something painful, such as reflux or a sore in their mouth, and they find it difficult to eat.
If your child has difficulty swallowing food or liquids, it's most likely because of a sore throat.
Or your child might have a sore throat because of a cold, glandular fever, mouth infection or mouth ulcers.
Babies can have difficulty swallowing if they have a cold that's causing a blocked nose.
It is normal for toddlers and even children to play with their food.
Also some toddlers and children are picky eaters and will not want to eat just anything you put on their plate or try to feed them.
Playing with food is normal for toddlers, and it's actually part of the learning process.
A small study from 2013 found that toddlers who messed around with food were able to learn words associated with those foods at a faster rate.
Toddlers are curious and energetic, which makes them run around and want to explore.
Sitting down for any length of time is an effort for a young child.
Some toddlers do most of their eating on the run, refusing to sit down at the table at all.
When the playing or throwing starts give one gentle directive such as, “the food goes into your mouth”.
Avoid saying things like “no throwing, don't do that, or stop”.
If we tell young children what not to do, they still don't know what they are supposed to be doing.
From a developmental standpoint, a child should be using a spoon by age 2, a fork by age 3, and a knife, with supervision, around age 5.
"Playing with" your food means touching it, moving it around, or doing other things instead of eating it.
"Playing with food boosts a child's confidence with the food, improves their motor skills and improves their attitude towards food.
"You learn so much about foods BEFORE they ever get into your mouth; by touching them and playing with them first.
Hence, being messy is an important part of learning to eat."