5 Year Old Son Chewing Things - Still

Updated on May 02, 2008
K.K. asks from Morgantown, PA
10 answers

My 5 year old son has been sucking his thumb and twirling his hair since he was an infant. I didn't worry about it to much and just figured that as long as it soothed him and that he stopped before his adult teeth came in that I wouldn't worry about it to much. He's pretty much down to sucking his thumb when he's tired or stressed. We're working on it though. :) My other concern is that he chews on things. He has ruined clothing, chewed zippers off jackets, chewed holes in the sleeves of sweatshirts, ruined cups with straws in them, and today I noticed that he had chewed a hole in the front of his t-ball shirt(we haven't even had a game yet). I have asked him if he was a goat half jokingly. He ate a hole in a brand new raincoat at the cuffs and at the top button. He really works hard to chew. Every time I pick him up at pre school all the straps on his back pack are soaking wet from him chewing on them. Has anyone run into this before? Anything non-toxic that I can put on everything? Any suggestions? My concerns now are actually less about the thumb sucking and more about the chewing and destroying. It's like having a puppy.

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answers from Philadelphia on

Have you tried giving him gum to chew? I've worked with young children at a preschool before and many kids chew their shirt collars and such. I just thought of the gum idea. maybe that will help.

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answers from Allentown on

My thoughts are that that this is both a habit & a need for oral stimulation. First I would try to re-direct the behavior (since he is old enough to be aware that he is doing it) replace it possibly with telling him to put his hands in his pockets (so he can't hold & chew) or come up w/ something everyone can agree w/.
Try not to focus to much negative on it, praise him for keeping his hands in his pockets (or whatever you choose)

I would then bring it up w/ the ped. & see what he/she suggests.



answers from Philadelphia on

You need tor eplace this behaviour with the one you wnat, have you tried rewards for going X amount of time with no chewing through things? It's going to take time and patience but if you wnat to chnage it you will need to try rewarding him if he goed so long with no chewing, then slowly take the time back longer. Either that or if he chews when he is only in stressfull situations you need to make those situations less stressfull. He needs to learn how to positivly dealw ith things. As he gets older he may stop the chewing and relace it with another neg, you wnat to change it to a positive while he is still young becasue if you let him go he will do what he wants and it may not be want you want.

I hope that amde sence, it was hard tyoping out what I mean. I took a parenting class for parents special need kids, you basically change your behaviour and it affects the kids, but you mold the behavior you want and the kid has no idea you are even doing anything. For example tiem ins instead of tiem out, it works pretty well if you do it right and stick with it.



answers from Sharon on

My son chewed on his collars and zippers and cuffs and paper. He literally ate the cuffs and collar of his coats! He has Asperger's Syndrome and a metabolic disorder. I never associated it with autsim until this year when his psychologist said to him, "I bet you chewed on your clothes when you were young." It blew me away!

My son is now 24 and still likes to chew on straws. It seems to sooth him.




answers from Lancaster on

I understand that the need to chew is very common in Sensory Processing Disorder. Your description of chewing clothes and cuffs of shirts sounds just like a post from the SID(sensory intergrations disfunction) Yahoo group.


has a checklist to "screen" if your child should be evaluated. You may see your child's tendencies all over the checklist, or maybe not. Mine was almost 5 until we saw it.

It's something that can be managed with some therapy, and many parents see great results with dietary changes.

It is not something the pediatrician can really do anything about, but can be dianosed by an Occupational Therapist.

Best Wishes.



answers from Philadelphia on

I have a friend whose son did these things. My advice would be to have him checked out to see if he has SI (Sensory Integration) issues. There is a type of physical therapy that will help him work through this.



answers from Pittsburgh on

It's weird, but since about 2 or 3 months before my son turned 5, he started chewing on his shirts & jackets! I don't know why this started or why he does it....I'll be interested to see what other moms have to say.



answers from Philadelphia on

talk to your peditrician about this. you want to rule out things such as autism. i do not want to scare you but it seems to be really bothering you and it needs to be addressed.



answers from Reading on

I would possibly have his iron check. He could be anemic(sp). My son would chew on non-edibles too and this is what we had found. I believe that chewing is a form of soothing for them, but just not the right stuff to chew on. i always have crunchy munchies around for him to grab instead of other stuff. Good Luck to you!



answers from Philadelphia on

Some kids really need oral stimulation in order to function, and it sounds like your son is one of them! Often the chewing really helps them focus and manage themselves, so you don't necessarily want them to stop chewing all together, just to find better ways of doing it. (I've seen this as a primary teacher) Giving them something that is just for chewing can help. You can use standard things like gum or drinking straws, but they also sell what are essentially "chew sticks" - they hang on a chord around the child's neck like a necklace, and are some kind of hard rubber, so it won't get chewed through as quickly. You may also want to find an occupational therapist for suggestions. Good luck!

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