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This is one of the common behaviors of toddlers.

Toddlers may not want to eat food that their parents give to them. But when their parents take them to a group of other kids or people who are eating food.

These toddlers may stare at the food & their eyes express as if they want others to give them some to eat.

These toddlers may or may not show their hands towards them. So, I think the verb "begging" may not be suitable.

I found this word

sponge informal + disapproving : to get money, food, etc., from (someone) without doing or paying anything in return

[+ object]

She always sponges meals from us.

[no object] — often + off

She lives at home and sponges off her parents.

How to express this toddler behavior: "She always stares and seems to beg for food of other kids" or "She always sponges food from other kids"?

  • toddlers do not beg for food or sponge food off people. They show they want some food by [whatever]. Beg and sponge off of call for speech. – Lambie Dec 28 '19 at 0:57
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Begging means asking for something from someone.

Sponging means getting something from someone.

The distinction is that when begging, you might not get anything; plenty of beggars are ignored. Sponging means someone is giving you something, whether you've asked for it or not. Also, the implication of sponging is more pejorative (the speaker clearly disapproves of it), whereas begging can be neutral.

Sponging, as you noted, is a more informal term.

I think begging is more suitable in this context. Holding hands out isn't a requirement (for example, dogs beg for treats all the time).

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For me "sponging" has the connotation of getting something for nothing. I wouldn't say it would be appropriate to apply to a toddler. I would use it if I had a friend who never bought his own snacks and always asked to have some of mine.

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