17 answers

My 23 Month Old Toddler Has Starting Licking Things!

My 23 month old toddler has starting licking all sorts of things from sand to toys, to anything he can get ahold of. I usually tell him no and try to redirect or distract him, but I am wondering why he does this? Do all toddlers do this? I have several theories for the cause: boredom, hunger, thirst, oral fixation/teething, attention. Has anyone heard of any information out there that really explains what is going on? Thanks.

1 mom found this helpful

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So What Happened?™

Thanks all for your responses -- I had to laugh especially at the dead bug mom and the "toddler diet"! I never actually punish my son for licking -- if anything, I am too relaxed and "laissez-faire" about these things. And I did figure out pretty quickly that no reaction is the best reaction. I guess I missed the boat though on the whole CURIOSITY thing! Of course! I think it is mostly curiosity and maybe occasionally hunger or thirst, and I never thought about the dog, but yes, he DOES imitate our dog and always has!

Since reading your responses I have really started to enjoy watching him lick the different colors of a board book to see if they taste different, etc. I will redirect when it gets unsanitary of course. Thanks all -- you have been a wonderful help on this issue!

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Toys with small parts are "not intended for children under 3" for a reason :) They still put things in their mouths, and like to try out all their senses on everything around them. I will often make a face like "ewwww" when my two year old does something like that, and say "yuck". It helps a little, but they are going to do what they are going to do. Or I might say "do you think a cat peed in that sand" to get him thinking about it... They say it builds immunity, but it's pretty nasty. Sorry I don't have any better suggestions.

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It's totally normal for toddlers to do that. He's just learning about his environment and the behavior will stop once he's finished with this learning stage. By telling him "no" and giving him a reaction, you could very well be prolonging this stage so I recommend just ignoring it.

A great example I have is of the wood chips in playgrounds. I see parents constantly telling their children to stop putting them in their mouths from a very young age all the way through to 3-4 years old. I, however, let both my girls put wood chips in their mouths (with no big reaction from me - even though it kinda freaks me out that they've probably been treated with goodness knows what...) from the beginning. They did it a little during the first 3-4 times we went to the park and then stopped. They satisfied their curiosity about what wood chips taste/feel like in their mouths and didn't want to do it anymore.

I personally draw the line at garbage (cigarette butts, food waste, packaging that isn't ours and the like) and excrement and things like bird feathers and of course, poisonous plants. Pretty much everything else, I have let my children explore with all their senses and the "tasting" stage passed very quickly for my girls, right around 1 year of age, though mine both started walking at 9 months so they were early toddlers :)

This will pass - best wishes to you!
~B.

2 moms found this helpful

Eegads. I HATED this stage, but I think you missed the main theory: Curiosity. Toddlers are insatiably curious and taste is most definitely one of the senses.

Plus, I think you're probably encouraging him by giving him such a fun and exciting reaction each time he does it. (In the world of an essentially powerless, but still very power hungry two year old, there is almost NOTHING cooler than provoking Mama into exclaiming NO or otherwise focusing 100% of her attention on you to try to get you distracted!)

When my oldest did this, my pediatrician encouraged me to ignore the behavior unless he was going to lick something dangerous - disgusting and dirty was not what he considered "dangerous." The nasty taste of dirt, sand, dead bugs (and oh yes, it WAS incredibly hard to ignore him licking a dead bug. EEEEWWWWW!) is a much better deterent than anything else I was going to try. And it actually did work pretty quickly. Once he stopped provoking such an exciting reaction from me, my son focused more on the taste and decided things like strawberries and oranges tasted MUCH better than dirt and windows, etc.!

2 moms found this helpful

Toys with small parts are "not intended for children under 3" for a reason :) They still put things in their mouths, and like to try out all their senses on everything around them. I will often make a face like "ewwww" when my two year old does something like that, and say "yuck". It helps a little, but they are going to do what they are going to do. Or I might say "do you think a cat peed in that sand" to get him thinking about it... They say it builds immunity, but it's pretty nasty. Sorry I don't have any better suggestions.

1 mom found this helpful

C.,

This is normal for that age. My son who is 4 1/2 still puts things in his mouth that he shouldn't. With him it's usually toys, but he did the everything with the tongue thing too. We had to wait until he grew out of it. Thankfully it was a short phase.

For my son it's about copying Daddy and Daddy almost always has **something** in his mouth.

Hope this helps,
M.

1 mom found this helpful

C.,

My twins (boys) started licking things around that age...they are not much older now, but are not doing it much any more. licking was a way to explore their surroundings. I would ask if it was YUMMY or YUCKY...they got bored with me asking.

enjoy!!

T.

1 mom found this helpful

My son started licking things and putting random items in his mouth around the same age. Now, he gets timeouts for things in the mouth, licking/spitting on the windows/glass, and playing with his spit. Though we have managed to curb his spit habits, it has taken a lot of time and consistency.

What we do is explain that these "things" don't belong in your mouth, spit doesn't belong on the windows, etc. We give him one to two chances a day. After we have to repeat ourselves we start with time outs.

Another really good method we use is the gummi chart. We have three small teddy bear magnets. Everyday he starts with three gummis that he will get at the end of the day for good behavior. (You could gear it directly towards not putting things in your mouth) Every "big" time out or incident, we take him to the fridge and make him remove a gummi magnet. And of course explain again why this is happening. Soon enough he will get the idea that not doing a certain action warrants a full treat. It has worked really well for us and using positive reinforcement vs time outs all day long with no real benefit.

C.-

My daughter (21 months) likes to put things in her mouth and pretend she's a kitty. I think it's a cross between pretend-play and a desire to experience things. Our mouth is one of the most sensitive areas we have. It's just a phase, nothing to worry over.

-B. M.-

My kids used to like to act like dogs going around panting, on all 4s licking things including my feet. It was actually really funny. They would hide under the table. He probably got this idea from a dog.

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