Why do kids like to chew on things?


Chewing on things for babies is a common sign that they’re teething, especially in children until age 2. Kids use their mouths to explore the world. But over time, some older kids may develop a habit of chewing. The item they chew is not a favorite food or snack but an inedible object (clothes, pens, toys) that comforts them. 

There can be several reasons your kid is chewing on inedible objects/things. Each child may develop this habit due to different unique reasons.


Some of the main reasons for chewing can include:

  • Stress/Anxiety – Children adapt to chewing on things as a stress-coping behavior. As chewing comforts them and helps relieve stress. Talk to your healthcare provider if you are concerned that your child is experiencing anxiety.

  • Sensory Stimulation – Some children have stimming and sensory processing difficulties where they make repetitive or unusual movements or noises to help cope with and manage their sensory information. Chewing can also be a form of stimming that some children use.

  • Body Awareness – It is defined as your awareness of and connection to it. The ability to sense the position and movement of body parts concerning muscles and joints is known as kinesthesia. Some kids may have a lack of body awareness which is linked to developing and maintaining eating disorders like binge eating and chewing onto objects.

  • Concentration – Some kids like to chew on the end of their pen because they are so concentrated on what they're doing. It happens to adults as well! The repetitive chewing motion can block out other distractions and help you focus.

  • Boredom/Habit – Some kids chew on the sleeve or collar of their shirts without even realizing they are doing it. Chewing can be a way to cope for other kids. Keeping your child busy might prevent boredom from causing them to chew.

There may be other different reasons your child is chewing on things. Speak to your healthcare provider to help your child cope with excessive chewing habits.


How can I determine why my child is chewing?

The first step is to figure out why your child is chewing. Speak to your healthcare provider and visit an occupational therapist or speech-language pathologist to understand your child’s chewing habit. Before your visit, take note of your child’s chewing habit, trend, or pattern. Observe your child’s behavior and take notes on the following

  • Chewing occurs at a particular time of day.
  • You should examine whether your child chews only in a specific place, such as at school, not at home if that is the case.
  • The type of object your child chews, e.g., soft or hard, is essential to know.


How can I help my child? Are there ways to decrease chewing?

Identifying the cause of your child's chewing is essential to helping them stop or reduce it. Here are a few activities that can help your child receive oral sensory input in different ways:

  • Allow your child to drink with a straw, including thick liquids
  • Make them blow bubbles/balloons
  • Chewing gum
  • Using an electric toothbrush
  • Giving them crunchy snacks
  • Asking them to Hum or buzz like a bee
  • Blowing whistles or wind instruments

These activities can help your little one not chew and get rid of it.

If your child cannot find relief from these activities and is concerned about your child’s behavior, then visit your nearest healthcare provider. A pediatric occupational therapist or speech-language pathologist may be able to help your child.


Chewing on hard things can damage your teeth.

Many Kids have a bad habit of nibbling on foreign objects such as pencils and pens. Other everyday practices include biting your nails and chewing ice. A tooth can easily be chipped or fractured due to the unnatural forces applied by these activities. Foreign objects can also break off and puncture your gums or get stuck between your teeth, causing pain.

Suppose your child's chewing habit is damaging their teeth. Then you can reach out to MyDentalPlan- India’s Largest Dental Network Platform, where you can find numerous skilled dentists who can help restore your child’s damaged teeth.




About the Author:

Suprithi Choudhary, M.Pharm (Pharmacology) Medical Content writer

Suprithi is a Pharma Professional working as a medical content writer and previously worked as a Research Scientist and Senior Research Analyst


  • C.M Academy
  • Attended the Panjab University- Chandigarh, Pharma post-graduate in Pharmacology

Special thanks to Dr Deepak Kulkarni, a dental surgeon with over 23 years of experience who proofread this blog. He graduated from the H.K.E's Dental College, Gulbarga, and has certifications in ACHS International Accreditation Education Plan; Advanced Rotary Endodontic - Restorative Continuum; and Leadership, Team Building and Customer Service Leadership from the Oscar Murphy International.

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