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Our toddler has recently, since moving into T-shirts rather than romper suits, discovered his belly button.

He now spends quite a lot of time with his hands up his shirt, or when settling for bed, with his hands in his sleeping bag playing with it.

Unfortunately this has started to lead to it becoming a bit red and irritated so we'd like to try and discourage him if we can. We're also trying to keep his fingernails as short as we can.

Any suggestions?

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If you can find a soft toy that has a belly button, that he can sleep might help. When the toddler is playing with his belly button, distract him by asking him to play with the toy's belly button. – Swati Apr 3 '12 at 17:26
up vote 6 down vote accepted

Band-aid (a big one) — maybe?

Every time he does it, ask him to remove his hand (I am sure you have tried this, but be very very consistent).

If he is in school tell them what you are doing, so they can do the same thing.

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In the end we just went with trying to tell him to stop each time. The couple of times we did try and cover it (with surgical tape) he complained that his tummy had gone. – Dan Kelly Mar 18 '13 at 10:26

Just let him play with his belly button. He is just enjoying his body and he wont really harm/destroy it. What do you think could happen in worst case?

This habit will stop sooner or later. Just don’t make a problem out of it. Keeping the fingernails short is a good idea anyway.

Real problem?

Nobody (not even a child) would harm himself without reason. Excitement? Stress? Any illness or invisible injury (inguinal or umbilical hernia etc.) that causes this behaviour? You should go and ask a paediatrician.

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What's with the downvotes? Often doing nothing is the best solution: if it's not an actual problem, don't make it one. Bandaids, insisting that he not touch etc it will just lead to unnecessary drama and possibly even body image issues. – jpatokal Mar 12 '13 at 1:01
The problem is that in playing with it, he is scratching it and making it sore - and it's not exactly an easy place to keep clean and dry. – Dan Kelly Mar 18 '13 at 10:25

My daughter picked her belly button until it bled and we use band aids. Pretty sure it won't cause body image issues. Everyone seems to be insane on this topic. It's one thing to discover it but if it's irritated and raw from that yes you should stop them from messing with it.

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It's a habit. I do it and so does my daughter.

You can't stop them from doing it because it's only gonna make them frustrated and upset; imagine a kid that sucks a thumb or fingers and trying to stop them, it's hard.

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This answer doesn't address the problem in the question; namely, that the toddler is causing physical damage by doing this. – Joe Feb 19 '15 at 16:07

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