10 answers

Child Constantly Chewing on Fingers

I have a 5 year old son who constantly has his fingers in his mouth. I feel like a broken record always telling him to get his fingers out of his mouth. He mainly does it when he is in a crowd of people either at church, a party, or preschool. I know this is a nervous habit. I have asked his doctor if there is anything I can do to get him stop and he says just to distract him, well I have tried everything under the sun to distract him but 2 minutes later his fingers are back in his mouth. If any other moms have or are experiencing this and have some advice on how to get him stop I would greatly appreciate it!

What can I do next?

More Answers

I asked the doctor the same question about my son. My son is 3 1/2 years old. The doctor told me to go to the pharmacy and ask them about it. The pharmacy has something that you could put on his fingers that will not harm him but it will taste bad to him so that he will not put his fingers in his mouth. I would go to the nearest pharmacy to your home and ask them about the stuff that you can use to put on his fingers so that he does not keep puting them in his mouth. I do not remember what the stuff is called but if you ask them I am sure that they will know.

T., I am with you. My daughter does the same thing. She doesn't suck her fingers but when she is nervous her fingers always end up in her mouth whether she is just playing with her teeth or lip. I'm not sure that putting something on her fingers would stop it, because you never know when she will do it and she could end up wiping it in her eye accidentally. I don't have an answer on how to fix it. I just wanted you to know that you are not alone. All I have to do is give her "the look" and she drops her hand. It is just one of those things. I will continue to read your responses so maybe I can get an idea as well!

Have you thought about putting something that tastes bad on his fingers that won't hurt him? There are products out there that you can put on nails for nailbiters that tastes bitter making them not want to bite their nails. I've also heard about dipping their fingers in vinegar - tastes bad! Plus, it smells bad so that when they are getting their fingers up to their mouths they smell the vinger and it reminds them it tastes bad so that they stop before the fingers get into their mouths.

My concern is... if its a nervous habit (which my son has had the same habit) you have to treat the underlying problem. Why are they nervous? You said it happens when he's around a lot of people. Is he concerned about losing sight of you? Does he go to "play dates" with other friends or is he mainly with you, your other son, husband and mother? Just some things to think about it.

Must be finger day!!!
I don't know if you have tried this or not but hot sauce, bitters, tabasco sauce, and red pepper juice may discourage him from sticking his fingers in his mouth because of the taste.
Talk to your dentist and see if they are still putting the bars across the top of the mouth. It won't cut his fingers but it will make the activity so uncomfortable most children stop.

My son, who is now 30, also had the habit of sucking on his thumb as a little boy along with carrying his "special" blanket with him every where he went. I can't tell you the number of times he had infections in his nail bed and had to be treated and the number of discussions he and I had about his thumb sucking. I could never bring myself to punish him for it though, it was his way of coping with our stressful life and I figured sooner or later he would figure out a better way to cope as long as he and I kept the lines of communication open between us. As he grew so did his words and so did his coping skills. When he about 6 or 7 he started cutting up approx. 3x5 sections of his blanket and stuffing these pieces in the pocket of his jeans and taking it with him everywhere he went. When he was feeling stressed in a situation he would put his hand in his pocket and touch his old familiar blanket and feel comforted. Nobody knew but him. No thumb went into his mouth and no huge blanket was being dragged around either. Jordan devised this on his own and told me about it after he had been doing it for a while. I was pretty proud of him coming up with his own solution to meet life head on just as we all do through out our lives. Ask your son what he thinks he needs to do to stop sucking on his fingers. Kids usually know more than we give them credit for.


The nervousness is definitely something you'll need to address or he may develop another nervous tick if he stops chewing his fingers.

You can use products that make the fingers taste bad so they are less likely to put them in their mouths. There is one product in particular that I am thinking of. It's actually for dogs, but is organic so wouldn't hurt your son a bit. It's used on furniture and such to keep dogs from chewing and destroying furniture. It's called Bitter Yuck and is available at pretty much any pet shop. A friend of mine told me about it. She mentioned that using vinegar was an option except that her kids like it so it never stopped them from biting their nails.

But, maybe if you are able to address the reasons behind his nervousness, you may be able to get him to stop on his own.

God bless,

Dear T.,
My son did the same thing when he was young. I did not try to stop him until he was 4 years old. I found out something he really wanted to do and told him we would do it if he stopped sucking on his fingers. Well it worked!
He wanted to ride a horse at our friend's house and it was important enough to him to stop. I would make the time limit long so that you can be sure he broke the habit before the reward.

L. M.

I am an occupational therapist, and your observation of when he sucks on his fingers caught my attention. This may be more than a nervous habit. It could be related to an unpleasant sensation due to the crowds. It may be the noise. Kids who are sensitive to noises or fearful of unexpected touch may try to override that sensation by sucking or chewing. This actually is a great way to diminish the reaction to sensory information, but it is also not a good choice for hygiene or social reasons. If your child is at all sensitive to touch or noise, I would consider this a sensory response. You could go the route of seeking an occupational therapy evaluation (by a good pediatric therapist with lots of sensory experience) if any other problems are present. If it is just the fingers, I would find a replacement. Gum, a candy that he can suck on, even a water bottle with a sport top for sucking, may be helpful. Talk to him about it. Be honest about why you don't want him to suck his fingers, and ask him to try this instead. Work together with him to find a solution. You will be amazed at what kids sometimes answer when asked the right questions. You may also try something in his hands that he can squeeze or play with, but I would try the other things first, as the hand held fidgets may end up in his mouth, too.

I hope this works for you.


I think that the occupational therapist had the best advice for you, but in the meantime, just to get those fingers out of his mouth, they have a nail polish that makes your finger nails taste bitter(for those trying to stop the bad habit of biting their nails) and you don't have to worry about him rubbing it in his eyes, so long as it is dry.

i would start by addressing why he is nervous. constantly reminding him of his nervous habit probably won't help any. i sucked my thumb and no amount of nagging or bad tasting junk on my thumb worked. i stoppped when i was ready to. your son will eventually outgrow this habit on his own. but i highly recommend figuring out what's causing him to be so nervous.

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