34 answers

My 7 Year Old Girl Chews on everything....help!!!!

I need help, my daughter is 7 and still chews on everything. We have had to cut her hair so she cant chew on it , she has had pin worms and is constantly sick. She puts everything in her mouth, shirts, toys, backpack straps...etc I have had a full panel of blood work done and it all came back normal. we have tried throwing the toys that she chews on away, rewarding her , is it a nervous habit or does she have some sensory issues? .... I need some help...please , it is a never ending battle, and it is causing health problems.

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A.! I thought I was the only one! My son is 8 years old and does the VERY same thing! I don't know what to do. When he was younger, and after he licked the carpeting in a hotel room (gag!) and licked the outside wall of a sports arena - I finally took him to the doctor. The doc thought it might be lead poisoning. It wasn't. That was about 4 years ago. Still, I have no idea what is wrong, either.

Hello A., My daughter is about to be 13 next week. She did the same thing. I gave her a baby toy that she could chew on only in her bed. It wasnt allowed out of there. After a few months she stopped wanting to chew on things. She has completely out grown it! I hope that helps. Have a blessed day!

It could be neverousness or a habit. I chew on things(straws, pens, candy) when I do not feel good or getting sick. Have you tried giving her a couple of options of things that it is ok to chew on? It doesnt sound like she is being mean to spite you.

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Hello A., My daughter is about to be 13 next week. She did the same thing. I gave her a baby toy that she could chew on only in her bed. It wasnt allowed out of there. After a few months she stopped wanting to chew on things. She has completely out grown it! I hope that helps. Have a blessed day!

I have 3 girls 9,7,and 18 mnths. I am also a proud aunt of 3 nieces ages 7,3,and 16 mnths. As with any advice I always tell the person that if they are seriously concerned with their childs behavior to seek a professionals opinion.
My 7 year old niece has a simular problem. Shes always putting stuff in her mouth. Straps, shoestrings, stuffed animals, ect.. But she has a serious condition. She suffers from the disease autism. I'm not saying your child has that by no means. Her therapist has given my Sister some at home therapy to try and sometimes it works and sometimes it dosnt.
You probably need to ask your doctor about some tactics to nip this in the bud, due to the fact your daughter too suffers illnesses such as pin worms.

Please if you find a solution please let me know. My son is 6 and I am going through the samething. He has put holes in his shits.
I'm 30, have a 6year old son, been with my boyfriend for 3 years.

It's great that you are starting now on helping your daughter with this. There are 2 excellent books out there that will both help you to gain a better understanding of where the need to chew comes from and give you fun examples on how to address it...and take some of the stress off : ) They are The Out of Sync Child and The Out of Sync Child has Fun...excellent sources to help balance what, for a variety of reasons, is out of balance. Try, if you can, to have fun with it, and she will not even know it is work and not play. Involve your whole family as much as you can if they too can have fun with it. As an OT and a mom, I have seen great results from this approach. Good luck and good job on persevering. C.

Can you try giving her sugarfree gum or straws to chew on instead of the other stuff? Maybe just giving her options besides clothes and toys will help until she grows out of this stage. Also, does she have sinus problems? When my allergies and sinuses are bad it makes my teeth hurt, chewing on something relieves that pain. I would also have her wash her hands often and use sanitizer when there's no soap and water around.

I see quite a few wonderful responses! I wanted to let you know that I was a child like this. I was (am) not Autistic, ADD, ADHD or dysfunctional psychologically. There's just so many more resources for us as parents now that our parents didn't have! Our family doctor gave my mother a "safe list" - things that I could chew safely and also talked to my teachers at school. All this came about because I had a teacher that was determined to "fix" me and would not let me chew on anything or touch my mouth -- it was a horrid, frightening, out-of-control experience for me, so be careful not to take things away from your daughter trying to "fix" her.

Have her vitamin and mineral levels evaluated by your regular doctor. If everything is normal, she may just have an oral sensory fixation. We all have ways we sooth, this just happens to be a very obvious one that can be safely channeled. Good luck and please tell your daughter there is nothing wrong with her and she will grow up to be perfectly "normal" ;)

I would say, does she need vitamins and minerals?

If I had to guess I would say she may have some sensory issues. My almost 6 year old daughter has some of those herself. She is a chewer too. It is frustrating, I know. Books, her nails, dolls hands and feet, and paper products of any kind are all fair game. She used to chew her hair too but doesn't do that as often anymore. She wants to eat constantly too. We don't let her but she is constantly "hungry" and "thirsty". It's the same need for oral stimulation that makes her chew things. Here's a very good website that has a checklist of symptoms. http://www.sensory-processing-disorder.com/index.html .
Best Wishes,

i don't know, to me, it sounds behavioral, not medical. i would have her evaluated by a neurologist, developmental pediatrician, or psychiatrist - it sounds like a compulsive behavoir. could be OCD, could be a mild autism behavior called "stimming"(self stimulation), or a myriad of other things. but, at age 7, it is quite abnormal to have such a fixation with putting things in the mouth, i would get her checked out, start with your pediatrician and go from there. good luck!

Have you tried the reward marble system? Everyday she doesn't chew on things you put a marble in a jar then when she reasches the Goal you set for her she gets a prise-like staying up 30 mins latter on friday, a new hair bow anything to show her you are proud of her trying to stop. Have you had evlauated by a child shrink, there might be a underlying chem. imbalance. good luck i hope this might help

Hi A.!! I am an pediatric OT. Some children are very oral in their exploration! If you have taken her to the doctor and everything checks out ok, then my advice is to try this next: Remember that this oral exploration or oral stimulation may be helping her to focus or satisfy neurological needs her body has.....similar to people who are always chewing gum, people who chew on their pen caps/fingernails or how some people fidget or doodle, or even smoke, etc. Instead of trying to eliminate the behavior/chewing, try replacing it with something more appropriate....from both a social and a hygiene perspective. For example, try giving her a straw to chew on...if she likes it, you can also try using refrigerator tubing (from Home Depot) cut in pieces of about 6" to chew on (it looks just like a straw, only more durable). You could also try giving her sugar-free gum (with rules for use....like keeping it in her mouth, now swallowing, and spitting it in trash when finished). Once you find something that she likes that you feel is a "good compromise",then everytime you see her chewing on something or putting something in her mouth she is not supposed to, then remind her, "If you need to chew on something, you need to get your straw (or a piece of gum, or whatever)."
I hope this helps! Hang in there....we are all made a little differently! Sounds like you are a really hands-on mom, which is wonderful!

She has sensory issues. go to google or Ebay and search "chewy Tubes" and purchase 1 yellow and 1 Red chewy tube for her to be allowed to chew on. these are specially designed for oral moter sensory chewing and are safe for the Jaw and teeth. the yellow is a thinner tube and the red is a thicker tube and one is softer than the other so she will be able to choose the resistance she needs to apease the sensory needs she has.

Other things good to chew on are

Twizzlers (leave them out for a day unwrapped)
Slim Jims beef jerky (leave them out for a day unwrapped)
Sugar free gummy bears
Sugar Free Gum

straws are nice but they often dont provide enough resistance for the sensory needs to be met.

It could be neverousness or a habit. I chew on things(straws, pens, candy) when I do not feel good or getting sick. Have you tried giving her a couple of options of things that it is ok to chew on? It doesnt sound like she is being mean to spite you.

My son did the same thing at that age. EVERYONE of his longsleeved shirts were either chewed off or stretched out. He would chew on the coller of his short sleeved shirts so the necks were always stretched out. Has there been a major change in the family situation? (divorce, move, change of school, death) My husband and I were having problems at the time and my son was doing this out of nervousness. After my husband and I resolved our problems, it was just a habit that he couldn't stop. We just had to stay on him like you are with your daughter. Keep an eye on her and call it to her attention every time she does it. It takes alot of your time up (I KNOW)! But eventually she'll stop. It took us about a year to fix the problem. Fix?? Well, he is 11 and every now and again I'll catch him with something in his mouth and he doesn't realize it...but I think that is just a kid thing. :) But this is only a once every other month thing instead of a every minute thing. Hope this helps. Hang in there.

Do some research on PICA.

You mentioned they checked for anemia, but was that just iron deficiency and did they test the "ferritin"? That's the most accurate measure for iron storage and for most folks you need to be in the 50-80 range. Even though the labs might show normal, she may still benefit from supplemental iron. Also, there are many other nutrients to consider such as magnesium - many diets are deficient in that and often kids these days are actually getting too much calcium (it needs to be balanced with magnesium). Also, look at her B vitamins. Again, you want something like B12 to be in the mid to upper end of the range. B6 is also really important. Another nutrient that has been correlated with chewing on objects is low Zinc. So, you might want to just give her a high quality multiple vitamin and see if that doesn't help. I don't think she's doing this on purpose. Something internally (in her nervous system likely) is out of balance and that's her reaction to it. You might consider taking her to an accupuncturist. They can do just accupressure on kids - it can be really good for issues like this.

Number one, give her something that she can chew on, like rubber tubing tied in a knot. See link below. I believe she does have sensory issues which would result in this "stimming" behavior. She needs to feel accepted by you though and the health issues have to clear up, so she needs to be given something to chew on while you seek help. Gum and the tube for now...

In the meantime it could be sensory integration dysfunction or ADHD

in the search box type in the word "chew" and it will pull up all of thier items. These helped my daughter immensely. Seek the help of an occupational therapist. Try North Texas Therapy Innovations on Greenville Avenue in Dallas. www.ntxtherapyinnovations.com

The iron deficiency that another response was referring to is if she eats wierd stuff, like paper. As long as she isn't eating any of this, I think it is just sensory. You might want to read more and see if you are noticing any other of the behavioral traits that go along with sensory integration dysfunction or ADHD. The symptoms seem so disjunct, but when you put them all together, it all makes sense.

Keep in touch.

My son has similar problems. His chewing also greatly increases when he is trying to concentrate or learn a new skill. I talked to his OT about this and she said it is very normal for children to chew on things, especially when they are learning new skills. This is because our thought processes are greatly connected with oral stimulation. She said that oftentimes kids who never had a problem before will start chewing on things around 3rd or 4th grade especially because this is a time in school when their learning goes from concrete subjects to more abstract learning, and requires greater levels of concentration.(even as adults we do this- chewing on pens, our nails...etc) If you are concerned about it, see if her school has an occupational therapist you can talk to and maybe find more appropriate things for her to put in her mouth (or see if she is having a sensory problem). Occupational therapists are wonderful for this. Good luck!

Hi A.,
My son, now 9yrs., also chews on everything and we found out recently that he does have a sensory processing disorder. There was nothing we could do to stop him from chewing, so we have provided him with appopriate items to chew such as gum and crunchy/chewy snacks. An evaluation from an occupational therapist will be very helpful for your daughter.

A.! I thought I was the only one! My son is 8 years old and does the VERY same thing! I don't know what to do. When he was younger, and after he licked the carpeting in a hotel room (gag!) and licked the outside wall of a sports arena - I finally took him to the doctor. The doc thought it might be lead poisoning. It wasn't. That was about 4 years ago. Still, I have no idea what is wrong, either.

Melissa M just made every suggestion that I was about to make to you. The chew stick, gum, bubbles, etc. are a really good fix. We have graduated to gum that is organic and contains no artificial color, flavor or sweetner, because, in addition to sensory processing disorder my son has severe ADHD and by removing these items from his diet, we believe that it decreases some of his hyperactivity. The health food stores and/or organic section of your grocery store will carry these items. Remember that the mouth has so many sensory receptors that she is trying to satisfy a need for stimulation. I would also highly recommend the book The Out of Sync Child which will give you a feel for if you should have your daughter evaluated by a Physical Therapist for Sensory Processing Disorder or Sensory Integration. I see that you are in Arlington and not close to Excel Pediatric in Rockwall; however, I am sure that you have similar gyms in your area. Children's House of Baylor is another one that I have heard of. The website for Excel is very informative if you want to take a look www.excelpediatric.com Let me know how it goes.


I don't have much advice other than just offering support. I have a 9 year old who will be ten next month who does the same thing. She chews her nails, the skin on her fingers, clothes, sheets, blankets. Etc. We have been fighting this for years and the good news is that as shannon gets older she becomes more aware of this strange behavior and has cut down on her chewing alot. She wants to fit in and wear nice shirts with out chew marks or paint her nails. I have friends who chew thier nails and they say that she will have to decide to stop on her own but to encourage painting her nails and looking nice. I hope this helps at least give you some comfort that it should get better with age. Good luck!

You might want to see if you can get her some testing for sensory issues.
Until then provide things that would be ok to chew.

Plastic coffee stirs are small (maybe more discrete if she feels the need to chew in public or at school)

regular straws

small small pieces of ice



When my son was 3 he used to crave sucking on ice water pops all day long. His OT gave him some surgical tubbing to chew to give him a different sensory feeling in his mouth, and a few other mouth sensory activites. He gradually decreased his need for the ice pops or any other mouth sensory.

You have had incredibly great advice here. I second the feeling about sensory issues however.
My son chewed on me as a baby, then everything in sight. He shredded pencils in school with his teeth, chewed on his shirts etc. etc. I did a complete neuropsych evaluation at Our Childrens House at Baylor and was advised it was a sensory issue. I took him to Lakewood Pediatric Therapy in Dallas, they specialize in sensory issues. We did almost 8 months of occupational therapy and he was a changed boy. There are websites that provide "chew toys" for kids. They are made of medical grade rubber and will provide your daughter a safe outlet. We even got permission for my son to use these at school as during tests he really needed the outlet. This is a bigger issue than most people realize and it can be misdiagnosed as ADHD due to the child being so distracted by sensory issues they cannot focus.
Once you get some OT it won't take long and by the time she is 10 you won't ever know there was an issue. It doesn't go away, they just learn to handle it and learn appropriate outlets.
Good luck,

hey..i am a counselor and mother of 4...if you were a client of mine the very first thing i would do would be exactly what you did..make sure there is no medical problem (iron or whatever it is makes them do that)...but after that i would assume it was a nervous "tick" which is actually quite normal (having a tick is..not necessarily eating / chewing things.) if i were you i would go ahead and make an appointment with an lpc ..insurance usually covers about 6 sessions a yr so why not...we all could benefit from a ittle therapy!! :) if the counselor is good he/she will not only address the nervousness issues but also teach you how to do a little behavior modification to help stop that behavior and encourage another outlet for the anixety...when "interviewing" counselors (which you should before you send your child there...they should not charge you for that) talk to them about those things i just mentioned and make sure the counseling style addresses those things (ie it doesnt sound like she needs psychotherapy so make sure that is not the direction the counselor wants to go with her.)


I am no expert, but I raised four children and these are my thoughts: I am wondering if there is an underlying emotional problem. Has your daughter been evaluated by a physician? Are there emotional issues that could be causing stress for your child? Question: Have you tried letting her chew gum (sugarless)? This might satisfy her need to chew in the meantime.

Hello A.,
Im a 32 and a Mom of 3. (11 year old boy, 10 year old girl and a 6 year old boy)
My 6 year old boy was diagnosed with Sensory integration disorder or (sensory processing disorder)
My son is a "sensory seeker". He seeks out stimuli because his body doesnt receive enough tactile sensations. (he use to eat and chew the NON eatable items on the preschool sensory table) Thats when we were told to have him tested.
Did you talk with your daughters school or ask for resourses?
I had my son tested privatly but you can also go through "Easter seals." We are new to Dallas, but I have been blessed with good resourses and help. Your daughter might just have a bad habit or she might need some therapy like my son. (its not a big deal at all, but it really helps)
Hope this helps in any way! J.

Working with these things frequently, I would imagine this is a sensory issue. Of course, having never met your daughter means I am very limited to just "probably". If you have ANY other concerns such as social appropriateness, physical coordination or academic success, then I would definitely consider getting some help.

Google PICA and read about it. It could be she needs some kind of minerals or vitamins. It could also be a sensory issue. Do you have any chewy toys? If you look up sensory issues on the computer you will find sites that sell these rubber tibes etc and that can help. Are there any other problems with her??? A lot of blood work that a regular doc wants isn't enough. They don't show certain things that could contribute to that. You may need to see a nutriionalist that specializes in it.
Good luck to you.

I think it is def. a sensory problem. We delt with this as well. Excel Pediatric Therapy in Rockwall really helped me with this. In the meantime you need to give her activity to use her mouth. Look at the book, The Out of Sync Child has Fun it has lots of ideas. Some to try now would be: REALLY thick shakes to drink, drinking pudding from a straw, blowing up balloons and on whistles...
I know this sounds silly but the mouth is the best regulator of sesory systems.This is her way of calming her central nervous system. there are things you can buy at Excel for $2 that are appropriate for her to chew on and do a better job of regulating her.
Good luck and you are NOT alone!


My eleven year old chews on pencils and chews holes in his shirts.
We have been told that it is a sensory issue and anxiety. We have done occupational therapy for the sensory side of things and are about to meet with a child psychiatrist to help with the anxiety. It has been my experience that when you take away whatever it is that they are chewing on they just find something else. Some say the chewing is a way for the child to stay alert and focused. You might want to take her to a psychiatrist for ideas on how to help her.
M. G

I have a fantastic Speech Pathologist that has PTs and OTs and scores of outside MDs that she works with on this sort of thing.

Sally Bober

She does a lot with developmental and neurological issues.

It does sound like a sensory issue that she can't help. When she chews it releases endorphins in the brain that help calm her internally and this is the reason for the chewing. Look on the net and find OT chew sticks for her so she doesn't have to chew other things or give her sugar free gum to chew as this will provide her with the same feeling. I would offer her other things to chew instead of trying to bribe her or make her feel bad about chewing because this is a part of her she can't help or control.


Did they check for Pica in all of the blood tests? (Pica is an appetite for non-nutritive substances (e.g., coal, soil, chalk, paper etc.) or an abnormal appetite for some things that may be considered foods, such as food ingredients (e.g., flour, raw potato, starch).[1] In order for these actions to be considered pica, they must persist for more than one month, at an age where eating such objects is considered developmentally inappropriate. The condition's name comes from the Latin word for the magpie, a bird which is reputed to eat almost anything. Pica is seen in all ages, particularly in pregnant women and small children, especially among children who are developmentally disabled, where it is the most common eating disorder.

Pica in children, while common, can be dangerous. Children eating painted plaster containing lead may suffer brain damage from lead poisoning. There is a similar risk from eating dirt near roads that existed prior to the phaseout of tetra-ethyl lead in gasoline or prior to the cessation of the use of contaminated oil (either used, or containing toxic PCBs or dioxin) to settle dust. In addition to poisoning, there is also a much greater risk of gastro-intestinal obstruction or tearing in the stomach. This is also true in animals. Another risk of dirt eating is the possible ingestion of animal feces and the accompanying parasites. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pica_(disorder))

If that came back negative, she might just like to chew on things. I've been a gum chewer all my life. When I didn't have gum, I'd chew on rubber bands, my hair, whatever. I turned out pretty normal...depending on who you ask. ;-) I still chew gum, but that's all.

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