Ugly viral trend: “Punching” toys to encourage kids to eat

Anyone who has children knows how soul-crushing mealtimes can be.

It’s messy and exhausting and frustrating and as parents and caregivers we can be pushed to the ends of our tether when trying to get nourishing food into their tiny little tummies.

The struggle is real. I get it.


We’ve all been driven to do questionable things in this setting. I, for one, will admit to bribery on multiple occasions. Trade offs, if you will… “If you eat two more bites of your chicken you get a marshmallow!”

This, I’m aware, is not ideal.

But this new trend of “punching toys” to encourage your child to eat is taking things to the next degree. It’s just plain wrong on so many levels.

It goes like this:

Offer baby food. Baby refuses.

Pick up cuddly toy and offer it food. Cuddly toy also shakes their head “no.”

So the next step is… violently punch the toy in the head.

The implication to the child is clear: don’t eat the food and you’ll get punched in the head.

In one video, which has been viewed almost 17 million times, a toddler of about 15 months is shown watching as his beloved Mickey Mouse toy is punched in the head for not eating his food.

The child twigs on pretty quickly that he doesn’t want to endure the same fate, so when he’s offered food again, he eats it. The confusion and hurt on the little baby’s face is honestly heartbreaking!

Clinical counsellor and psychotherapist Julie Sweet confirms to 10Daily: “The impact of doing this to a child is possibly detrimental. This trend could be interpreted as fear-based and may be traumatising… Both fear and trauma are not conducive in creating a secure attachment between the primary care giver and child.”

In this particular video the child’s uncle, featured in the footage, says it was all in good fun and the little boy was never in any danger – which is probably true.

But the lesson that this child is subconsciously being taught is really quite frightening. The bottom line is, the caregiver is using the threat of violence as a tool of coercion. Even though the adult knows they would never follow through with that threat, the child doesn’t know this.

Marshmallows may be packed with unhealthy sugar, but I think I’ll stick with the sweet approach for now and leave this “trend” well alone.