An industry poll has found that 27% of nursery managers and staff have seen a rise in children biting over the last 5 years.
Some nursery managers have suggested that this is due to children having too much screen time and parents being too busy to pay attention to their children.
The poll, conducted by review site daynurseries.co.uk, enlisted the feedback of 1,000 nursery owners, managers and staff in April and May.
More than 62 per cent of those questioned in the poll said they often have to manage children biting in their settings.
The news comes in the wake of a study from the BookTrust which found that over a quarter of parents now use technology such as home assistants, apps or voice notes to give their children a story at night.
Editor of daynurseries.co.uk, Sue Learner, said of the poll’s findings: “Reading books to your children and spending time talking to them builds their confidence, curiosity as well as their language and self-esteem.
“It is no wonder there is a rise in children biting at nursery due to them getting cross and frustrated over an inability to communicate as well as it being a cry for attention.”
Owner of Paint Pots nursery group in Southampton, David Wright, spoke of some of the factors which can contribute to language delay in children:
“There are many factors for this including screen time, particularly the use of screens as babysitters or parental substitute where children are not engaging in dialogue.”
He added: “Language delay, coupled with poor self-regulation, can lead to frustration in children who are unable to express themselves and this, in turn, can lead to distressed behaviours including biting. Biting is a very visceral experience for both parties. The biter is, in a sense, making an explicit attempt at connection with another person, bypassing language.”
As well as screen time, Mr Wright believes that other possible causes of language delay are mobile phone usage by parents, forward-facing buggies and parent’s lack of awareness of the need for dialogue with their children.
As a way of helping alleviate the problem of children who repeatedly bite, Tops Day Nurseries use ‘biting boxes’ in their settings. These are boxes filled with biting toys and teethers.
Operations Director at Tops, Amy Alderson, said: “We do have to support some children that are prone to biting across our settings. Mother Nature intended for us to find biting a pleasurable activity, hence the popularity of chewing gum.
“Therefore, once a child has bitten, they get an immediate and pleasurable sensation which often results in them biting again. At Tops Day Nurseries we have introduced bite boxes into our classrooms for those children that are prone to bite. The children learn that if they get the sudden desire to bite, that they can select a teething toy or similar to bite on, to release the urge. We have seen this work very successfully across many of our settings.’’
The National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) has advised of the need to talk to the child’s parents when any biting incidents occur.
Stella Ziolkowski, Director of Quality and Training at the NDNA, said: “There are many reasons why a child may bite another – young children who cannot talk or articulate their feelings can bite as a form of communication. It’s a way they can express difficult feelings such as anger, frustration or fear.
“For babies and toddlers, biting can help to relieve teething pain and is also a form of exploration. It’s vital a nursery has suitable resources to help relieve teething pain so they are less likely to bite a child.
“Some children, particularly those with sensory processing disorder, have a need to bite down on objects to help self-regulate, relieve anxiety and cope with stressful situations. Some children may see other children biting each other and imitate their behaviour. Some may just do it to gain attention and others may be acting in self-defence.”