Obsessive Chewing in Children

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While it sounds strange, many parents have expressed concern over a seemingly obsessive compulsive need that their children have to chew; on everything. Parents have discussed their children chewing everything from pieces of plastic, to fur, to their clothes and hair; and everything in between.

Once babies go through the teething stage, we naturally assume that the days of watching them put nearly everything in their mouths are over. Of course parents are at a loss then, when their toddler or even older child begins incessantly chewing on everything; you have to admit it’s pretty strange!

Chewing is a habit; just like thumb sucking or hair twisting, it’s a habit that must be broken. And just like any other habit, chewing likely has an underlying cause; there probably is a very good reason why your child is chewing everything. If you can come to understand the habit better or at least discover why your child does it, you can help them to break it; or at least give them something a little more suitable to chew on.

Focus Factor

You probably have little quirks that you don’t even notice when you are really trying to focus on something. Many people bite their nails, twist their hair, or incessantly shake their leg. Most people have some strange habit that they habitually do when trying hard to focus.

For children, chewing may be a way of helping them focus. When they are working on homework, concentrating in class, or trying to learn something new, chewing may help them to relax enough to focus. If this is the case, they just might need something else to help them focus, or at least something else to chew on.

Tension Release

Some parents actually ought to be grateful that their children chew on things; they could be acting out aggressively instead. Many children chew as a means of relieving their tension, frustration, and any other negative feelings they may have. While other children resort to hitting, biting, or tantrums, some children simply start chewing holes in their clothes. Clearly it becomes a rather expensive habit, but again, aside from slowly breaking the habit the best thing to do is to find them something more suitable to chew on.

It may also help to closely observe your child and try to decipher the cause of the tension; is it a particular subject in school? Are they being bullied? Are they not getting enough exercise or enough sleep? If there is a specific cause of the tension that is leading to your child’s chewing, dealing with that may put an end to the habit.

Pent Up Energy

If your child chews and chews but really isn’t very active otherwise, one might have something to do with the other. Your child may be frustrated physically with not having an outlet for all of their energy.

The human body has a physical need to be mobile; we need to move in order to expend the energy that our bodies create. Anyone with children knows that they have a lot more energy than we do; it all needs to go somewhere.

If you feel that this may be the case, try to get your child moving more. Send him outside to play, arrange play dates at the park; anything to get him up and about. You may start to notice that once he’s busy, the chewing stops.

Oral Issues

If your child’s chewing seems to have suddenly come out of nowhere, it may have something to do with things going on in the mouth. Children will often resort to chewing as a means of soothing pain in their mouths; it may be from new teeth coming in, cavities, or other issues, but you need to find out.

Many times, children just have a need to stimulate their jaw muscles. The muscles become tight if they are not used, and this could definitely be the problem if your child is on a diet consisting of mostly soft foods. Try adding more solid foods to your child’s diet and see if the chewing wanes any.

Children’s Chew Toys?

Yes, there really are “chew toys” made just for children who like to chew. While the toys are not by any means meant to encourage chewing, they are much better for your child’s teeth and also give them a designated thing to chew instead of everything in sight. The “Chewy Tube” is a chewy toy that was developed by speech pathologists and was originally designed for jaw rehabilitation. The toys are easy on your child’s teeth while still giving them the relief that they need. They are color coordinated according to size.

“Grabbers” are another chewy toy that help stimulate jaw muscles while giving chewers an outlet. These have an easy grip handle and are available in different textures. You can also choose grabbers based on how chewy or tough they are; depending on your child’s needs.

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