14 answers

Help - My Son Is Chewing on His Shirt

Just a few weeks ago my son who is 4 1/2 but a little delayed. started putting the front of his shirt, around the collar, into his mouth. I think he's chewing on it. It leaves a fairly large soaked wet spot about 6" in diameter on his shirt and he does it any chance he gets. I'm not sure why so am wondering if anyone has any ideas on how to figure it out so I can maybe help out with the root of what's causing him to do this. Ultimately of course I want him to stop the behavior so any tips in that arena would be great too. THANKS!

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I have a daughter who chews on her sleeves. This went away when summer came due to the absence of long sleeves. There is a possibility that this is a sensory seeking activity. You can have him evaluated by an Occupational Therapist, and get sensory advice.

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My son did the same thing and it turned out to be a reaction to eating food dyes. When we changed his diet it stopped. He only does it now when exposed to the wrong food or something like chemicals that are found in some cleaning products. Check out Feingold.org which is an organization that might be helpful. They list chewing on clothes as one of the symptoms of food dye allergies. Best of luck to you.

Hi T.,

My son did the same thing when he was that age. He is now almost 8 and hasn't done that in a long time. My son has a tentative diagnosis for Asperger's and I also wondered if this was a big deal. I always corrected him when I caught him but I tried to just not make a big deal out of it. He will outgrow it. What are his delays? Are you receiving help through the school district? This can help because there will be someone besided mom who corrects him. Let me know if you need help with the school district if they are not helping since they should be and I have gotten VERY lucky with mine here in Sandwich(60 mi west of Chicago)Good Luck!

You mentioned he's a little delayed. Is he in some type of therapy? My friend's son had 'sensory' issues like that...chewed on the tag of any shirt he was wearing....would only allow certain types of cloth/material to touch his skin....etc. With some therapy (state approved/paid for) he overcame all that in about 18 months. Get him tested/evaluated. School districts are good places to call for evaluation locations. I don't know where you live. Good luck.

Hi T., my name is A. and I also are a mother of 3.Ages 5,2,7mo.. My 5 year old daughter did it for about 2-3 months, about a year ago..She also used to chew on the bottom of the shirt...Her doctor said some children go through it and that she will stop and sure enough I left her alone about it and didint say another word to her about it and she soon stopped...Good Luck

I have a daughter who chews on her sleeves. This went away when summer came due to the absence of long sleeves. There is a possibility that this is a sensory seeking activity. You can have him evaluated by an Occupational Therapist, and get sensory advice.

I read some of the other responses and they said kind of what I was thinking
My son did that and still at times will do it
(he is 13)also blankets, towels, etc..
Not to worry you but it can be a sign of tics/tourettes/sensory issues he is doing it for comfort or he just can't help it. Chewing on clothing is one minor symptom. It was interesting and helped me understand alot of other thing that he did after I looked it up and read about it. It is nothing to get upset about if you try to make him stop it could make it worse so if you can just live with it and ignor it life will be fine.
I don't want to over load you with info but are there any other little habits he has that seem different? If you want more information just e-mail and I will help the best I can.

my little guy is just about31/2 and starte to do the same thing. i wondered why. well the closer i watched him and instected his mouth for anything and everything i notices that his teeth shifted ever so slightly. when babies start teething the chew, right. well that is what i came up with. he needed to relive sressure. the same for when i got my wisdom teeth, i felt like a baby chewing on my fingers or the bottom of a pen. check it out that may be all it is. good luck


My son was doing this last year but on the sleeve of his shirt to the point that he would chew a hole in his shirt. My son has some sensory integration disorders which was part of the problem but we felt it was more to do with anxiety. Sometimes it is the pressure the child feels they are relieving by working out the chewing motion. I can't remember what it was called but someone at the pragmatics group he attends suggested a mouth piece they can put in their mouth to relieve the pressure. I am sure you can check the Internet for that. Also, we were able to give our son a small soft ball to squeeze to work out the pressure. Another option is to take a balloon and put flour in it to squeeze. Hope this helps.

Just looked on the Internet and found this site:http://www.beyondplay.com/CATALOG/ORA3.HTM.

Another sensory mom here! My son is big on this one. His first year of kindergarten, he chewed through all his new shirts. I would seriously consider having your son evaluated for possible sensory integration issues. It is probably not a big deal, but it may be helplful for him.

We made bracelets (necklaces if he is big enough) out of plastic tubing. You can get it at any hardware store or pet supply. Pull a string through it, and tie it around his wrist. He can chew on it for hours without breaking through.

My son is pretty picky about what he likes to chew on these days, but I can usually find something to fill the need besides his shirts!

my husband still does this. usually when he's playing a video game or poking around on teh internet. he also chews on the sheets on his side of the bed sometimes (usually when he has a cold or is sick). i've gotten him to stop with the sheets, but his shirt? as long as he doesn't mind walking around with a wet collar, then it's fine by me.
i think it's a subconsious comfort thing, like twirling your hair, or chewing on pencaps. one of my brothers does this as well when he's concentrating on stuff.
old habits die hard.

i guess there could be worse things to worry about. :)

You have gotten some very good advice already. Though your son has some delays, I'm wondering of it is just teething and/or anxiety. If so, this is completely normal and you should not discourage him because it will only add to his anxiety. Plus, he will find another outlet anyway.
Did he start this habit when you started working from home? He could be reacting to the fact that he is getting less attention, now that you are working again.

I am another mom w/a kid with sensory issues. My son has autism. The chewing seems to help him 'regulate' himself, either while trying to concentrate, waiting, etc. Chewy tubes come in different shapes (P's, Q's, and others that look like little hammers) and they are a more acceptable way to satisfy his urge (which he may outgrow) instead of getting in the habit of chewing on his shirt. Just think: how many adults chew on their nails and pencils when deep in concentration or impatient?! Chewies are available from Abilitations catalog.


Add me to the list of moms who think this could be a sensory issue. My son never chewed on shirts, but his own fingers, metal objects, and occassionally other children. He also has sensory processing disorder and constantly needs oral input, especially when stressed. His OT got us a couple of chewy tubes, which work well, but are expensive. A speech therapist suggested the tubing, and it works just as well, is cheaper, and easier to replace when lost. If your son has an OT or ST, ask about it; otherwise, get him evaluated by the school district. Be aware, however, that not all OTs have experience with sensory processing disorder. I'm a teacher and I've run into a few that work for school districts that have no training in it. Good luck!

Hi T.!
My son had some oral/motor delays when he was a baby and now at times that he needs comfort, he will stick things in his mouth and eiterh suck or chew on them (thumb/fingers/shirt, etc).
Has his routine changed recently?

One thing that works for my son is those teethers that loos similar to this

If it is a comfort thing, find something appropriate to let him chew on or suck on.

I feel liek I have done a TON of research on oral-motor issues, so feel free to send me a message and we can chat about this. Is/was your son in any type of speech therapy?


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