Children Putting Things in Their Mouths

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Five year old putting his hands and other items in his mouth

Jan 2010

My 5 year old son always has his hands or household items (pens, notebooks, etc) in his mouth. We've talked about it a lot, but he doesn't seem to be able to stop and he isn't biting his nails. When we read books at bedtime, I say, ''Hands out of mouth'' at least 6 times in the course of 15 minutes. He gladly takes them out, but they just creep back in there. He has had other 'habits', but each has come and gone. This has been happening for over a year. Any tips to help me help him stop this? This sucks.

My 5 (now 6) year old also puts a lot of things in his mouth. We can handle it at home, but it was a problem at school. I think it is a sign of anxiety and nervousness. And a habit. For school, we bought him ''chewelry'' bracelets that he wore on his wrist and could chew on. He has now settled into school and does not need his chew bracelets anymore. This is a good way to help because it safely and appropriately lets the child chew. Also there may be something causing him anxiety that you could address. I also noticed that the chewing behavior stopped after he lost another tooth - could be some itching going on due to tooth loss? Here's the link to the bracelets we liked:
mom of a chewer

Toddler puts EVERYTHING in his mouth

Sept 2008

The little boy I watch is almost 15 mos old. He puts everything in his mouth. EVERYTHING. He put a rancid old beef bone from the dog across the street in his mouth. His mom was watching him. Is it appropriate to try to stop him from putting EVERYTHING in his mouth yet? I know the age is ripe for ''sampling the goods'' in many different ways. He doesn't differentiate between toys, garbage, shoes though yet. I feel it's okay to start now and try to teach him to stop, others say no way, he's just too young. His grandmother expressed some trouble with my telling him not to put stuff in his mouth. I know it's an uphill climb but I can't just let him keep putting everything in his mouth. He could eat the wrong thing at some point. Help! advice and opinions please... trying to do the right thing...

So, wait a second, you are actually being told that it's better NOT to prevent this child from putting things in his mouth, regardless of what it is? So, he's TOO YOUNG to be prevented from putting, say, rat poison in his mouth????? WHAT???? For crying out loud, it's the JOB of adults to prevent little children who are TOO YOUNG TO KNOW BETTER from putting dangerous things in their mouths. Disgusting rotten bones fall into this category, I think, as do many things. For example, ANY metal object, since anything made of metal may contain lead (which you have know way of knowing, but if it did, could cause severe damage or even death, so why take the risk?). Baffled

No, of course you don't let him put everything in his mouth. That's a good way to get hurt. For example, did you know that many houseplants are toxic, some to the point of being fatal?

I care for kids this age as well. The mouth is simply what they prefer to use for interaction. Give them a wooden spoon or steel measuring cup to gnaw on, or if their parents don't care about plastic toxicity, whatever toy they have around can be fun to chew on. I don't encourage them to chew, but I turn a blind eye. I don't comment on it if the item is safe, because this is simply the stage they're at.

IF IT'S NOT A TOY: What I do, is if it's something that's not really gross, I calmly say ''Oh, that's just for the hands to touch. Your teeth are just for food.'' If it's something dangerous, or just gross (such as that dog bone outside), then I act quickly to remove it with a slight raised voice of alarm to get their attention, and say something like ''Uh uh uh. Yuck. That's yucky; we don't want that in our mouths.'' And then repeat that we only put food in our mouths. If it's a piece of trash, I invite them to carry it to the garbage can with me. It's okay if their hands are interacting with it (after all, they're already touching it, right?). Nanny