ChildForum Office of Pre-Primary Education

ChildForum Office of Pre-Primary EducationLead advisor on early childhood care and education 
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Publisher of the New Zealand-International Research in Early Childhood Journal


Child Bitten 9 Times at Early Childhood Learning Centre

© ChildForum

A Pukekohe 19-month-old toddler is alleged to have been bitten up to 9 times by the child of a teacher at an early childhood centre.  

The child had received bites on two previous occasions. The child's parents have now withdrawn their son from the centre.   

The parents said the injuries were played down in a call from the centre and when they picked their child up they were shocked to see his wounds. The child was treated at  Middlemore Hospital and received three stitches for a wound to his ear. 

Dr Sarah Alexander, chief executive of ChildForum, said every early childhood centre under the early childhood regulations has a responsibility to ensure children's safety.

"If a child has bitten another then this is strong signal to all involved that not all is right at the centre for the child", said Dr Alexander.

"Biting is not a phase that all young children go through.  Often there are factors in the setting or how the child is being cared for that create frustration, stress, or an overwhelming feeling of powerlessness for the child."   

Dr Alexander recommends that adults address the situation that leads to a child biting and change this so the child is happier, in control of what is happening to him or her, better supported, and no longer feels invisible.  

A child who has been bitten may feel fearful to return to the centre and parents should be supported in making alternative care arrangements. 


What You Can Do to Reduce the Incidence of Biting

1. Give the child a great deal of individual attention and time. Be present for the child. Show the child you are interested in him/her.

2. Give lots of affection.

3. Provide ample space for movement. Toddlers need a lot of space - even more than older children - for movement and physical play.

4. Make sure the daily schedule or timetable is relaxed and responsive to the child's personal needs and wellbeing.

5. Provide plenty of each toy and equipment so toddlers are not put into the position of fighting and having disputes over toys and access to play equipment.


Making a Complaint

Inform the Centre Owner or Person Ultimately Responsible for the Operation of the Service

To print a Complaint Form for making a written complaint to an early childhood service, go to:

Inform the Ministry of Education and Follow-Up to Check Your Complaint has been Adequately Actioned

An early childhood service that is operating in breach of government regulations to provide a safe place for children should be reported to the Ministry of Education. Send a written complaint to your local office of the Ministry of Education.  Follow it up and ask the Ministry how your complaint has been investigated and if you are not satisfied with the investigation, then complain again. Click here for further information and address details of Ministry of Education offices. 

Further Information on Why Toddlers Bite and Practical Advice

Click on the following link to an article with information on why toddlers bite and practical advice for parents and teachers

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