I have a 3 year old who recently started chewing on whatever is nearby. Whenever he gets bored, or he's sitting watching a show, it's almost guaranteed he'll start chewing on something. Up until recently, he typically only chewed on his plastic toys or books. However, last night, while he was taking a shower, he chewed through our plastic shower curtain.

We always remind him whenever we see him chewing on something to stop chewing on it, and he complies for a little bit until he seemingly forgets what we just told him (typical 3 year old stuff).

How can we keep him from chewing on everything he gets his hands on?

5 Answers 5


Assuming no underlying neurological or medical issues, there are some safe (enough) ways to help induce some selectivity in what your child puts in his mouth. I have used it, with some success, with various age children.

Strong, particularly spicy flavors can trigger a strong aversion to the item in question. I have found garlic to be particularly effective, and not nearly as severe as capsaicin.

The major drawback is that this is contrived, and if they catch you, especially as they get older, it will back-fire.

A much less aggressive technique (and probably better), is to simply redirect these behaviors and provide safe replacement objects to chew on. Chewing really isn't that uncommon, and unless he is truly eating these objects, can often be easily corrected/reduced without drastic measure.

A method guaranteed to keep your son safe, though that will not help modify the behavior, is to eliminate truly hazardous objects that fit in the mouth (not a bad idea anyway), and provide ample supervision (this is not in any way intended to imply that you don't provide adequate supervision, just that more than usual may be required while this phase continues).


I'd ask your doctor. This could be pica. Eating non-food items is obviously not safe.


Seems like he developed a bad quirk. There is no short way to change that. You have to call him out every time he does it and show him that you are disappointed by his chewing habits. It will take a walk and a lot of nerves but better yet than when hi is in school age and might get into problems with other kids because of that.

There is an exception for extreme cases, exception means in that case, that he might chew on dangerous things, there are "chew blockers", for pets, that also work with kids, without being dangerous, because is just tastes horrible. But that is just an emergency tool, that will stop chewing on certain things, not the chewing habit in itself.


Keep unsafe things to swallow out of reach. If there is something inappropriate that can’t be removed, such as a shower curtain (Which could be removed I suppose.) or if something is at a high risk of swallowing which you can’t remove or may forget about you might consider Nintendo’s approach to his favorite naughty chew toy.

Just because it’s funny, here’s a guy taste testing the substance — it’s safe, but disgusting.

Just be very selective with your application, don’t get caught, don’t make it a habit once your point is proven, and reinforce “well, I told you so — you shouldn’t have put that in your mouth!” when he spits it out. He might start listening.

I like the suggestion of garlic — except I have always really liked how garlic tasted, even when I was little, so it may backfire.


Some children are very sensory and will crave sensory input (google "sensory processing disorder").

Our son had sensory issues when younger, we noticed when we have about 4. Aside from always chewing things, sometimes he would just lie on the ground and roll around to satisfy his need for sensory input. This would normally come when he was "overloaded" by too much sound or other inputs.

In order to address his need for chewing, we tried various chewing toys (google "SPD chewing dog tags"). This worked to an extent.

Even now (at almost 10), he is very "touchy" and will sit very close to ensure he is touching you. Plus side: he loves cuddles.

Be aware that Sensory Processing Disorder is not part of the medical mainstream - we've had professionals agree with the assessment and others calling it BS. Luckily, we found people who were able to help our child through his younger years.

I have no idea if this is relevant to your son's case, but it might be worth reading up on it.

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