37 answers

18 Month Old Boy Puts Everything in His Mouth!

Hello,

I am worried about my 18 month old son. He puts EVERYTHING in his mouth. When we're outside he eats dirt, puts rocks in his mouth, licks the ground, trees, eats grass, chalk--whatever he picks up goes in his mouth! It's very stressful for many reasons. I spoke to his pediatrician about it who ordered blood tests for anemia and lead toxicity (still waiting on those results) and she said she thinks he is just an "oral kid." I breastfed until he was 10 months old and then he suddenly weaned himself and that was that. I've read about pica and he seems to be too young for that to be a concern, but I'm exhausted and seriously stressed out about this. None of the other parents (all have girls) have experienced this. Has anyone else had this problem? And, is it even a problem or am I overreacting? Thanks, C.

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Thanks everyone! It's helpful to know that I'm not alone in this. It's interesting to read the variety of responses here and what's great about a message board like this is being able to select the best pieces of everyone's ideas. So, thanks again. I'm much less worried, but will continue with my research, because that's what I do! Thanks again, I really appreciate all of your feedback.

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You can put some hot chilly juice on every finger (not too much) and leave him eat. After few times of eating that hot staff...you will see improvements....100% guaranteed!!!!
Good luck!

My little girl is 2.5 yrs old now and still likes to put things into her mouth. She was breastfed until I lost my milk at 5 months. The only thing that kept dirt, sand and rocks out of her mouth was she liked her pacifier and to suck/chew on the satin ribbon on her blanket. We got rid of the pacifier about a year ago because it was affecting her teeth. She still puts toys and her hands in her mouth all the time, but it is getting better and she doesn't put her blanket in her mouth any more. She is still very tactile and likes the touch of her blanket on her fingers and chin. Maybe you could find a toy or teething blanket that he would prefer to put in his mouth than dirt or rocks.

Sounds pretty typical to me. Every child I've been around has gone through the phase of putting everything into their mouths. Some do it to lesser and greater degrees perhaps, but they all do it. The good news for most of us though is that it's a pretty short lived phase. My son is 2.5 and he knows now that he's not supposed to put anything other than his food or drink in his mouth. Even so there are times when he can't resist and I find him "tasting" something he's found.

The only thing I really worried about were potential choking hazzards, but otherwise it didn't really concern me. Hopefully you're on the end of this stage and can move on to other things (like climbing everything in sight!) soon.

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There's a good possibility that he may be sensation seeking with his mouth. We are all wired differently and it's hard for nature to get it right sometimes. Some kids are born with hyper (acute) or hypo (low) sensativity in their hearing, seeing, feeling or, as in possibly your son's case, their mouth. When a child is hyposensitive in their mouth, it is much like having a local anesthesia in their mouth constantly so what you will find is that there is a tendency for them to put all kinds of inappropriate things in their mouth on a near constant basis in order to get that feedback that he needs with their mouth. They also can overstuff their mouth with food for much the same reason. This is not something that they grow out of with out some work to help him increase the awareness and parameters of his mouth. If this is the case, I would suggest reading The Out-Of-Sync Child. This was the situation that I had with my now 5-year old son. It started when he was about 18-months old and, with a lot of work and strategizing, his sensation-seeking with his mouth is nearly non-existent. If you feel like this is what's happening with your son and would like some tips on what you can do now to help him, feel free to e-mail and I'll be happy to pass them on to you.

2 moms found this helpful

anemia maybe. but babies learn a lot from putting things in their mouths. i wouldnt worry to much just try to disscourage him from eating anything that can be harmful (like rocks, etc). well i hope this is helpful!

I got to this request to slow,but after reading your request,My first thought was IMAGINE THE SAVINGS ON YOUR GROCERY BILL!! LOL Kiddin C..

My almost 2 1/2 year old still puts everything in her mouth. I haven't taken her pacifier away yet because its the only time I'm sure she's not sticking something in her mouth. The only thing you can do is make sure you keep anything and everything out of your sons reach and constant supervision. Dirt may not hurt, but bird poop carries a lot of diseases. As long as you clean your floors once in a while, he'll be okay, but really watch him outside, especially around picnic tables. Birds will eat food left and then do their business there. Wild flowers are also dangerous so watch out for those too. I keep hoping for the day she will outgrow this.

C.,
I just want to encourage you. This is something you will just have to learn to not let bother you so much. I have an 8 year old son. He still puts everything in his mouth. If he doesn't have something in his hand to put in his mouth he will suck on his shirt. I asked his doctor about it and got the same response as you, he's just an oral kid. Sometimes it gets to me, but for the most part I try not to let it. Now that he is older I give him gum or sunflower seeds or something like that to have in his mouth so hands and other things don't find their way to his mouth. Maybe you could find something he can put in his mouth when you see him putting dirt, ect. in his mouth. Good Luck

Sounds pretty typical to me. Every child I've been around has gone through the phase of putting everything into their mouths. Some do it to lesser and greater degrees perhaps, but they all do it. The good news for most of us though is that it's a pretty short lived phase. My son is 2.5 and he knows now that he's not supposed to put anything other than his food or drink in his mouth. Even so there are times when he can't resist and I find him "tasting" something he's found.

The only thing I really worried about were potential choking hazzards, but otherwise it didn't really concern me. Hopefully you're on the end of this stage and can move on to other things (like climbing everything in sight!) soon.

I haven't read the other responses, but I suggest seeing an occupational therapist. He might ha a oral-sensory seeker, which means he needs to put things in his mouth to stimulate his tactile system. There are ways to treat this in occupational therapy. Good luck

Welcome to motherhood. As a mother of three, I can tell you that babies put everything in their mouths from about 6 months to around 2 years old. (I've never had problems with dirt, though.) I would just make sure that everything is clean, and that you do a "choking hazard check" before you let him play. Hopefully, all of the tests will come back normal and it's just part of being a baby. Good luck! :)

My little girl is 2.5 yrs old now and still likes to put things into her mouth. She was breastfed until I lost my milk at 5 months. The only thing that kept dirt, sand and rocks out of her mouth was she liked her pacifier and to suck/chew on the satin ribbon on her blanket. We got rid of the pacifier about a year ago because it was affecting her teeth. She still puts toys and her hands in her mouth all the time, but it is getting better and she doesn't put her blanket in her mouth any more. She is still very tactile and likes the touch of her blanket on her fingers and chin. Maybe you could find a toy or teething blanket that he would prefer to put in his mouth than dirt or rocks.

Hi C.
I am a mother of 2, so no doctor or anything like that. My oldest daughter was like that when she was little AND STILL IS at 16. The other is not. I read child psychology books and they said that babies get tons of information about their world from their mouths. Texture, hard, soft, size... it is like their eyes, ears... just another way of sizing up this place. I spen alot of time trying to give her things to put in her mouth that would not be harmful, or at least less harmful. I found "chew sticks" for people, a kind of bark or tree thing at the health food store. Real cinnamon sticks were good when she was older as they crumble and you have to judge when they won't choke. As far as toxins from dirt and stuff, check out what Carolyn Northrup says. To sum it up, we may be having immune problems because we are to sterile. The regular ingestion of small amouts of dirt allow the immune system to remain tuned up. Don't worry. ALL IS WELL.

hi C.
Does he like dust bunnies? My son loves them. Boys just do that. Relax.I decided i could scold him endlessly, which is exhausting i agree. Instead i just try to deal with things around in order of what can really hurt him. I got him a piggy bank so when he finds change instead of putting it in his mouth we make a big deal about putting it in the pig. He loves this game and no longer puts change in his mouth. We made up a song that goes "if you find it on the floor then you put it in the trash". we walk around the house and i try to find things first and point to them and then he puts it in the trash. It's actually a lot of fun. Stuff outside, maybe barring cat poop, is mostly pretty benign. Get some kelp flakes and sprinkle a few on his eggs and that will help move the lead out if there is any, but dirt, leaves and sand... he will figure it out. When he starts munching at the park, i give him a few apple pieces and he likes apples and is figuring out that they taste better then sand. At some point if he knows he can't get a big reaction out of you he may put things in his mouth to test you.

C.,

Some kids are just more oral than others. My 18 month old also puts everything into his mouth. I don't think it is unusual at all. He's in daycare so I figure not much worse can happen to him. He's also my second child so I'm pretty much past the freaking out part of parenting. It is just one more way that kids explore their environment. Knowing you have a kid that puts stuff in his mouth, I do think it is important to really limit what he can access to put in his mouth. My son was also breastfed and he's almost completely weaned at this point. I don't think that makes a kid any more or less orally fixated, I think it is more just an individual personality thing.

All that said, some kids can take oral obsession to an unhealthy level. It can be a sign of sensory intergration disorders or even autism. My older child is 4.5 and has autism and sensory integration disorder. He was still mouthing things at 3 years old and that is NOT normal. If you are that concerned, google sensory integration disorder and see if your child meets the criteria. If he does, make an appointment with early intervention to have him evaluated. EI evaluations are free and you can self refer. If he has an issue, their services are also free and they will come to your home to do them.

T.

Well, it is quite normal for children to put things in their mouths. That is how they feel things. As long as your son doesn't put things in his mouth that will hurt him you are fine. Believe me a little dirt will not hurt him. My son put a cat turd in his mouth ( YECK !!) Don't stress out about this. It's all good. He is normal and so are you.
N.

Hello C.,

This is very normal. My 14 month grand daughter puts everything in her mouth if she can. Like the doctor said he is an "oral kid".
My daughter when she was young had to touch everything and still does at 24! When we would go into a clothing store she would walk along and touch every piece of clothing she could get her hands on. She would touch everything!!! glass, wood, nasty ashtrays with that cat litter stuff in it. I finally figured by age 4 she hadn't contracted any deadly diseases so it must be okay. My doctor also told me every child has a sensory they perfer and that hers is touch and feeling everything. It is how their brains are wired.
Anyway I know it drove me crazy too and I hope this will help ease your concerns.

Hi C....my 2 year old is still doing that! UGH! licking dirt..and sand..likes to throw his food on the floor then pick it up and eat it. yesterday we were walking and he saw some dog poo and he was trying to get at it..saying "poo!" like it was important to get at it! nuts! he's a super smart little wild man..some boys are just fearless and very curious..sounds like you've got one..just keep saying 'that's dirty no no!" that's what i've been doing and it seems to be working..maybe act out and make an "icky" face when he does it..like "ew!" and say..no no that's dirty!"
good luck..it seemed like my son stopped for awhile but has started up a bit again.

Once the doctor has eliminated a medical problem, just relax, if the thing in his mouth is harmful, take it out, but don't holler or make a big deal of it. It might turn into a battle or game where he knows he can get a reaction from you by putting something in his mouth. Kids will put stupid things in their mouth until they are much older, My five year old seems to constantly find pennies and have them in her mouth. Obviously remove poisonous or choking hazards, but the licking etc, just ignore.
I have an eleven year old that sniffs everything, otherwise normal, but this strikes me as weird. Get ready for your kid to do other things that seem weird and just relax about it.
Maybe your son will be a chef, maybe mine will be a.... hmm, perfume tester or something :)

It sounds like a sensory thing where he finds that he can better understand something by putting it in his mouth. All children explore the world around them differently and some prefer using their mouths to do so. Honestly my son was that way and still is from time to time and he is 4. I think he does it now because I made such a big deal about it and he knows it will get a rise out of me. My neice just turned 2 last week and she eats dirt and rocks and still likes to use her pacifier. My son would suck on and chew his "blankie" to the point where 1/4 of it was in his mouth. Hard to believe but somehow he accomplished it. Ironically...my sister (mother of the neice I mentioned) made a big deal about the blankie and ended up cutting the chewed up part off of it when he was 2...kind of pissed me off...so I just giggle inside when my neice is crunching on rocks. Kind of a silver lining. Seriously, don't make a big deal about it because it's probably nothing outside of his personal preference to experience the world by mouth. Best wishes.

I don't think he is too young for that to be a concern. Either he is missing minerals or there is a toxicity. Has he been immunized? Is his development in all other areas on target? If not, then i would be concerned about heavy metal toxicity. When kids do this, they are not getting the metals they need. I have a son with autism, this was what he would do and he did not stop until we balanced his minerals. If they go off, he starts this behavior again. Don't take this lightly and don't let the pediatrician downplay what your gut is telling you.

Hi C.,

I have the same problem with my Daughter who is 3yrs old. I have had this problem with her since she was a little person. I believe that your Doctor is correct, he is a oral kid. I've come to call it her exploring and learning zone. Most kids learn with touching or smelling or seeing. But I believe she learns by putting things in her mouth, so I know how you feel. What I have learn to do is be very sturn with her about what is OK and what is not OK to put in her mouth. I tell her how certain things she can put in her mouth can make her very sick. I watch her everywhere we go. I also encourage her to pick up new things and smell them or just touching them to figure out what that touch is. It is a up hill battle but I can say it is getting better the older she gets, but she still puts a lot of things into her mouth a 3. I'm also firm with her when she is being discipline about putting objects in her mouth that can harm her.

hello C., do not worry, i have 2 sons one is out of that phase (i thought it would never end!) and one is almost 18 months and into that stage has been for some time. sand, rocks, dirt, food off the floor in public places, grabs stuff out of garbage, etc...one time he almost ate broken glass outside on our way to the mailbox! this is a phase and i know he will grow out of it eventually i just can't remember what age it's supposed to end. please try not to worry and just keep an eye on him as best you can just like you are already. this phase WILL END.

S.

Hi C.,

My son, who is now 4 1/2, used to put everything in his mouth too. He wouldn't eat it, but would put anything he saw in his mouth. I struggled constantly with watching him at parks, stores, other people houses, etc. Speaking from experience, it does subside with age. He was just REALLY oral and was that way from a baby. I now have my second child and she not oral at all. I think it's just they way your son is and is exploring the world. Age does mature them in all areas of their lives and he is still very young and exploring things. :):):) Good luck with your adventure of being a mom!!!

Take care,
S.

Good Morning C.,

Take a deep breath momma, this too shall pass. What's the expression?...you have to eat a pound of dirt before you truly live? My son put everything in his mouth. He is also very healthy. I would talk to him about what he was eating, give him something else to hold at times and let him explore his world. He is still very oral. He sucked on his T-shirts when he was thinking at 4. He is now 14 and to tell you the truth with our coversations these days, I miss the dirt. ha ha. Hang in there, and know that you are the calm, the guide for this gift of a son in your life. Your reactions will mean everything to him. Get a sense of humor and don't use any poisons in the yard. The earth will love you too.

I follow this rule, God made dirt so dirt don't hurt.
Think on the bright side, dirt and rocks have minerals. My daughter went through this phase and 1 of my sons did too!
Their exploring and learning. Try not to let it get to you (unless poop looks good) lol
When I was a little kid, I ate mud-pies! Remember those?

Calm down. Every kid is different. You are looking into medical causes so just wait for those results. All kids explore orally. Yours just happens to do it more. A little dirt won't hurt your son. Find out what plants are toxic and make sure that those are not around or watch him extra carefully when near those plants. Don't let your son chew on rocks if they are choking hazards or if he is chewing on them in a way that will damage his teeth. Grass is not going to hurt him in small amounts.

Dandilion and many other pants are actually edible and can be added to your diet (if you wanted or needed). Why not give him lots of opportunities to explore things that are safe? You could arrange a visit to a friend's garden or a local you pick farm. Teach him what things are good to eat. Try to expose him to lots of different textures and flavors at the dinner table. You could make a sampler tray out of a cup cake tin or tray.

My son is 8 moths old and the same way. I never even thought it was a problem I think it is their way of exploring. Maybe you are worried becuase of his age? It can be very exhausting trying to keep rocks out of his mouth I can relate to that but I really think it is a healthy activity. They are using their mouth to feel things just as they would with thier hands. My son also loves textures of things and will feel all different textures like different carpets, or tile, dirt rocks, grass. Then it goes to his mouth for a second opinion.
I don't think you should be worried.

You can put some hot chilly juice on every finger (not too much) and leave him eat. After few times of eating that hot staff...you will see improvements....100% guaranteed!!!!
Good luck!

I wouldn't be worried about this. My son is the same age and does the exact thing. Just yesterday he poured water on our patio outside just so he could drink off of the ground. It is a big joke in our family that he will turn down mac and cheese yet eat just about anything outside. I think time will fix our son's oral curiosities and we just need to be extra vigilant with what they are able to put in there mouths. Good luck.

Most kids are oral at this age. I have a 18mo girl and a 15mo boy. They are both still putting almost anything in their mouths. Don't worry to much, but trust your instints.

I am amazed that none of your friends admit to having seen this behavior in their children! I am the mother of four, and I also did day care for quite some time, and this is extremely common. My second born used to have gritty poop due to all the sand and dirt he ate... ha! He turned 23 last week and has always been perfectly healthy. You say you are exhausted and completely stressed out by this ~ change your attitude. Your son will grow out of this (it is a phase and he will have many of them) and the more you minimize the situation, the better. Make an issue out of it and it will become one. As long as he is not ingesting harmful substances ~ and I mean truly harmful, not just general concerns over dirt and sand and grass ~ and is not in danger of choking, relax about this matter. Enjoy your little guy! All too soon you will have real issues to deal with. Enjoy the baby stuff.

I feel you. I have a 20 month old son and he still puts everthing in his mouth. It drives me up the wall. He likes sand and sticks and I find him munching on rocks. But I think it just who they are right now. Maybe it's because they are boys that they are more oral because all my friends with girls don't have this problem. My son will look at something and the first thing he does is lick it, then look at it and test it again. So the doctor says he will just grow out of it at his own rate just like everthing else. He did get tested for anemia at it 1 1/2 year visit and is totally fine.
I say don't worry and your not the only one out there.
Take care
M.

hi. i have a one year old son who is a "taster" also. he has to either lick, suck on, chew, or put all things close to or in his mouth. except a pacifier (i tried, but he refused) its just a way that they explore. my daughter was a "toucher". she had to just touch EVERYTHING she was around, from walls to the concrete to dead leaves. nothing ever went into her mouth, but she had to feel the texture of things for her to be satisfied with her surroundings (interestingly, she took the pacifier). she stopped at around two years, and i am hoping for the same thing for my son. it is nerve racking to turn around to find your son munching happily on a stick, but that's obviously the way he preferes to learn about the world. just keep an eye out for dangers and let him eat the non-harmful things, like grass. you're not over-reacting, you just have to watch your child a little closer than some moms. like i mentioned, all my daugher wanted to do was touch things, not taste them, so learning to monitor my son in a different way was a little difficult at first. hang in there, he'll stop eventually.

Personally, I don't think there is a darn thing you can do about it. You can't tie him down or watch his every move all the time. Looks like you have been doing a great job so far, all you can do is make sure he doesn't swallow anything.
Maybe take a CPR class...LOL
My nephew did weird things too. He would lick the strangest things!!
Your son WILL grow out of it!!!!! I wish I had a better answer for you. It's just gonna suck until he stops doing it.
Good luck, and take care.

I wouldn't worry about it, I walked outside the other day with my friend to find her 21 month old eating dirt in the backyard - she said he eats the sand at home too... My son didn't do this, but it is totally normal. Try distracting him, or bringing something along to the park to eat - pretzel sticks or apple slices, something crunchy to satisfy that urge. Don't worry too much, kids are weird..... :)

I wouldn't worry to much sand & dirt make for gross diapers but other then that, keep a watch out for things to choke on. My Daughter is the one I had this issue with but what goes in must come out. At some point they finally don't like dirt. But my Daughter is 12 1/2 years old and when she is playing or watching tv I find her chewing on her little brothers toys. (Army men, starwars guns, lego's)
and I still have to remind her that it's gross and she needs to be aware of what she is putting in her mouth. Gum helps but you don't want them to chew that all the time either. And there are older folks that still chew their pens and pencils. You don't want to change this habit into an eating all the time one, because he'll be fat if he has to eat all the time to keep things out of his mouth.Good Luck! J.

My almost 2.5 year old daughter does this too. It drives me up the wall. Her twin doesn't, so I know its just something she does. I have been told she will grow out of it eventually. Most other parents I see don't get as upset as I do, so I'm trying to be calmer about it. I just make sure I watch her closely when the crayons or chalk are out, and if she starts with the sand we leave the park. She does do it less than she used to if that's any help. Hopefully this stage will end soon.

My son was/is the exact same as your son. From 12 months to about 2 years he put EVERYTHING into his mouth and even swallowed a few things like small rocks and a few pennies. And yes, a couple of days later they eventually came out with no problems. I had my DH check his stool everyday to watch for it.

As long as he doesn't get sick, get allergic reactions or choke from it, I wouldn't worry about it. It's just dirt and grass and stuff from nature. I would just watch him as best you can, especially if he is picking up food stuff from the ground and eating it.

Around age 2 my sons curiosity about putting things in his mouth started to subside. But at age 3 he will still put things like coins in his mouth...I guess he likes the metal taste. But at least now he knows not to eat things that aren't food and will eventually spit them out.

It's just a phase...so try not to worry so much.

C., This is totally normal for kids your sons age to do. I have a 4 year old and a 11 month old and they both did the same thing. My daughter puts rocks, specs of dirt from the floor, strings and pretty much everything into her mouth. It seems as though this is how children discover everything. They think "Hmmm, what's this? I'll eat it and see". Don't worry, just take it away and give him something he can put in his mouth. Tell him icky, or whatever key word you choose and once you go through this what will seem like 1,000 times he will learn. Have fun with your son!

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