Bad Habit-Pencil Biting

Updated on February 09, 2013
S.R. asks from Azusa, CA
5 answers

My 5 year old DESTROYS pencils. Not just bites the erasers off, but often chews up and bites off the metal end part too. She has also chewed up the front tips of pencils on occasion. I bought her pencil-top erasers to "repair" all her ruined pencils, and now the tops of those are chewed off too. She mostly does this while doing her homework, so I wonder if all her pencils at school look like this too? How embarrassing?
Aside from stopping her when I see it (I try!) any ideas? I wanna nip this in the bud!

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So What Happened?

I'm sorry I never swh'd you guys. This was helpful. I never would have thouht they made chewable pencil toppers for this purpose, totally easy to Google and purchase online. Gum is good, but unfortunately she likes to pull it out of her mouth and play with it. I found out her pencils at school are not in nearly as bad of shape. I actually think it is because she has to be 100% on good behavior and on task there, so she has no time to chew her pencils. It's actually happening when she is procrastinating and distracting herself and not getting started on work at home. She is not much of a stress case over homework. She used to have a paci as a toddler so maybe its that oral fixation! Still, I hadn't considered OT, that's not a bad idea I may ask my ped if we need to explore it.
Thanks guys!

More Answers



answers from Dallas on

It is a coping mechanism when she is stressed, I used to do the same thing. I started keeping sugar free mints in my pocket and when i felt the need to chew on something i would suck on a mint. Now as an adult i chew gum but that was not allowed in school.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

You should be able to find an oral-sensory fidget tool that she could mouth instead. I'd do an internet search to see what you can find. Like KP, I also chewed on my pencils, pens and fingernails when stressed.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

I just bought my son some pencil toppers designed for kids that chew. They are clear and fit on the ends and are made for this purpose. I Googled chewable pencil toppers.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Not embarrassing -- dangerous. She is going to damage her teeth, hurt her gums and possibly swallow a metal piece that ends up with you taking her to the ER.

She finds the pencil -chewing pleasurable and it probably relieves stress and helps her focus (I would bet her school pencils are chewed up too). Because she is nearly eating these things, I would get her evaluated as soon as you can by an occupational therapist who specializes in kids.

Here's why: My friend's son chewed pencils and erasers like mad until he started seeing an OT, who discovered that he really, truly needed some oral help in order to concentrate at school; the boy and his parents and the OT worked with the school to get the boy on an education "plan" document that allows him to chew during the school day; he used to use "chewies," which are items designed to be chewed and available through therapists, and now that he's older he is permitted to have gum in school. The boy is MUCH more calm and focused when he is allowed to chew -- it's not a "bad habit," it's simply the way his brain is wired and it's easily diagnosed and dealt with. The fact that your daughter mostly chews while doing homework (how much does she have, at five? Is that a source of stress to investigate?) could indicate that she has a strong need to chew or have other oral stimulation while focusing her mind.

This condition of focusing better while chewing or sucking on something is not at all unusual. So don't think anything's terribly wrong --she just may need to do this. But she could use an OT evaluation -- it couldn't hurt just to do it and see if this is mere habit or truly something that needs attention before she hurts herself.

I would talk to her teacher ASAP to see what's going on in school because I'd be concerned about her teeth and the very real possibility of swallowing pieces of wood, eraser or metal. (I hate to think what a sharp sliver of wood could do to a gum or even a stomach.) See if she can be allowed to chew something more appropriate if she's doing it at school (unfortunately if she's in K they will probably not allow that unless she has a formal letter from an OT and an education plan document permitting it; they won't let a K student chew gum etc. or all the others will whine about "Why can't I do that?" At older grades it's easier for teachers just to tell kids, "He gets to do it, you don't.")

Meanwhile, during homework time -- introduce her to gum ASAP!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Can you put that stuff on them that stops kids from biting their nails? Tastes terrible. Otherwise put vinegar on them - won't hurt her but tastes awful.

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