Almost 3yo Constantly with hands in mouth

My son (turning 3 in October) has recently started putting his hands in his mouth ALL the time. He was very attached to his pacifier as it provided so much comfort for him and we finally weaned him from it this summer. But now he has fingers in his mouth throughout the day. He doesn’t suck a thumb, it’s mostly chewing on or biting on his fingers. I’ve asked him to be stop and tried to explain the risks of germs and getting sick since we are in a pandemic (of course toddlers could care less about logic) but nothing sways him. I also tried to offer chew toys instead (but he tells me those are for babies so won’t use them. Help!

Hey mama, really interesting situation. It sounds like his pacifier was really calming for him and he’s just replacing it with his hands. You’re right that toddlers and logic don’t usually mix. I actually bought this cute book called “Yummy, Yucky” and it showed toddlers what types of things are supposed to be eaten and what’s not. Maybe you can try using that language more around the house in regards to his hands being “yucky” for his mouth and what other things are yummy.

Probably a lot of cueing, picture books, and alternatives like sucking on pretzel rods or carrot sticks could help. I’m actually pretty against chew toys as they’re really not functional and socially appropriate. We want kids to learn how to change their behaviors to help them use socially appropriate alternatives.

This might take some time to change. Don’t expect miracles overnight and maturity will probably be a huge factor.

Hopefully we can try and get some other suggestions here. @Otholly @OTMamacita @OTJacP @TheOTway @Speechwithjwo @Twowayspeech @Letsplaylittleone

Hey! That sounds like a really frustrating thing to be going through!

Whenever I see a child focusing on a certain behavior, I try to look at the situation surrounding the behavior to see if I can better understand. What are the particular moments you see him putting his fingers in his mouth? Is it right before a nap? When he’s upset? Is there a specific time you see it more? or maybe there was a change/ something new going on (ie: going back to school? moving?)

Targeting the “why” of his behavior can be helpful, especially if he’s using it as a coping tool. Then you can have a discussion about what to do when feeling tired/sad/ upset/ bored etc. (other than putting fingers in his mouth).

As you observe and try to figure this out, I like @tots-allison suggestion for offering pretzels or other satisfying textured foods during snack. Maybe even asking him if he wants to “crunch” or “suck” on something- that would be a helpful indicator of what sensation he’s looking for and the type of snack that could fulfill it.

Much luck with this! Hope this is helpful! With time things will level out and it will be a thing of the past :slight_smile:

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Thanks for your replies, this community is the best! That’s a good idea about pretzel rods and carrot sticks and asking him if he wants something to suck or something crunchy. Will definitely try! And I’ll order the book you suggested, too.

As far as what triggered/when this started- all I can think is us getting rid of his paci. Not much else has changed. I’m not even sure he’s aware he does it and I haven’t been able to pin point certain triggers (like being tired or upset) :woman_shrugging:. I’ll start watching closer to see if I can figure out his ‘why’…