Dealing with spitting - The Play Doctors
Identify why the child is spitting
Could it be because:
They are looking for a reaction
It’s learnt behaviour
The child produces too much saliva
The child enjoys the sensation of playing with saliva
To get out of doing something
Strategies and Responses
Respond quickly and use a consistent approach. Teach the child it is not
acceptable behaviour. Tell the child what the consequences will be if he/she
spits again. Make sure the consequence is meaningful to the child. Be aware
of your own personal reaction – we find spitting a disgusting, but if we over
react and show that it really affects us, the child may continue to get the
If the spitting is attention seeking, avoid giving any reaction. If the child is
looking for a reaction and you respond, it becomes a game to them and the
behaviour will continue.
Wipe away the saliva as soon as it happens. Remember some children who
have an underlying impairment such as verbal dyspraxia may not be able to
swallow easily and have a build up of saliva. Therefore they spit to get rid of it.
Find out if this is the case and if so, work with the child and parents to develop
a socially acceptable method to deal with the situation such as spitting into a
If the spitting is sensory, provide alternative safe sensory opportunities such
as finger painting or water play.
Follow child’s behaviour management plan (if there is one).
Give the child a sweet or something to keep their mouth busy (this must not be
seen as a reward).
Praise good behaviour.