Understanding Biting Behaviors in Young Children


​As social creatures, humans have a tendency to interact with one another in a variety of ways.  Biting can be done for a variety of reasons, from play to self-defense. It can also be a sign of affection or aggression. Whatever the reason, it is important to recognize the implications of biting and how it can affect relationships.   Biting—through a common behavior among young children—can be puzzling and concerning for parents and caregivers. As children navigate the world around them, they may resort to this seemingly aggressive act for various reasons. But fear not! we’ll dive into the perspectives of child therapists, occupational therapists, and developmental therapists to shed light on why children aged 0 to 5 bite and provide valuable guidance on how to address this behavior.

By understanding the underlying causes and employing effective strategies, we can foster healthy development, communication, and emotional well-being in our little ones. So, let’s embark on this biting journey and unlock the secrets behind those tiny teeth!  Biting is a common issue during early childhood, and it can occur due to various reasons. Here are some possible explanations and strategies to address the behavior:

  • Exploration and Sensory Stimulation:​  ​Infants and young children often use their mouths to explore the world around them. Biting may serve as a means of sensory stimulation, allowing them to experience different textures and tastes.​ ​Infants and young children are naturally curious and use their mouths as a way to explore their surroundings.
  • Teething and Discomfort:​ ​​Teething can cause gum soreness. ​​Teething is a normal but challenging phase or ​developmental process that can cause discomfort for children. Biting provides counterpressure and can relieve the soreness or pain associated with teething.​ ​
  • Communication and Emotional Expression:​ ​Young children may bite as a way to communicate their needs or express strong emotions like frustration, anger, or excitement, especially when they don’t have the verbal skills to express themselves adequately.​ ​Children between 0 and 5 often lack developed verbal skills, making it challenging for them to express their needs and emotions effectively. Biting can become a way to communicate or release strong emotions.
  • Attention-seeking:​ ​Biting can be a way for children to gain attention from caregivers or peers, even if it is negative attention. They may learn that biting leads to a reaction or increased attention.
  • Frustration or Overstimulation:​ ​Young children may resort to biting when they feel overwhelmed, frustrated, or overstimulated by their environment or social interactions.​Young children can easily become​ activated which may trigger biting as a coping mechanism.
  • Mimicking and Learning:​ Children may observe and imitate the behavior of others, including biting, without understanding the consequences.​ ​Children learn by observing and imitating others, including their caregivers or peers. If they witness biting behavior, they may mimic it without fully understanding the consequences.

se strategies should be adapted to the individual child’s needs and development. It’s crucial to observe and assess the child’s behavior patterns, triggers, and any underlying issues in collaboration with caregivers and other professionals involved in the child’s care. Working together as a team can provide support and tailored interventions to address biting behaviors effectively.​ Remember, every child is unique, and the underlying reasons for biting may vary. ​

In the intricate world of early childhood development, biting behaviors can be a complex puzzle to solve. However, armed with knowledge from child therapists, occupational therapists, and developmental therapists, we can better understand the motivations behind these behaviors. By recognizing that exploration, teething, communication, attention-seeking, ​and ​frustration all play a role, we can approach the​ pesky biting​ issue with empathy and targeted strategies.

We have handouts parents & caregivers can give to their daycares, as well as strategies and action steps for parents & caregivers to take to reduce biting in each of these areas in the Handouts section of the Hub.