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Parenting: How can I stop my six year old putting non-food items in his mouth?

What should I do to stop my six year putting non-food items in his mouth? It's one of the listene...
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11.39 24 Oct 2021


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Parenting: How can I stop my s...

Parenting: How can I stop my six year old putting non-food items in his mouth?

Newsroom
Newsroom

11.39 24 Oct 2021


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What should I do to stop my six year putting non-food items in his mouth?

It's one of the listener questions Joanna Fortune - psychotherapist specialising in Child & Adult Psychotherapy - answered on Moncrieff this week.

The question:

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“We are parents of a very happy 6-year-old but we are concerned about the fact that he still puts non-food items in his mouth, at home in particular, and especially when playing or watching TV. He is very bright and finds learning easy. He has a very healthy attitude to all foods and loves most textures, tastes and eats very well.

"We are just concerned he will choke on something, and he is also prone to cold sores. We have given him an ice cube to suck on when watching TV and currently a fidget popper which does help, until that goes in his mouth too. What should we do? Giving out to him isn't working.”

Parenting: How can I stop my six year old putting non-food items in his mouth?

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

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Joanna’s advice: 

“You’re absolutely right, giving out does not work. It would need me to know consciously, ‘What am I doing? Why am I doing it? I shouldn’t be doing it.’ If I was that aware of it, I wouldn’t be doing it - let’s be honest. So the giving out doesn’t make sense. 

“Especially if he’s mindlessly doing it, when he’s engaged in something else. It’s just more of an instinct. And actually they’re doing lots of the right things and keep doing those - the fidget toys and the distractions. 

“This is a kid who seems to eat really well - all tastes and textures. He’s open to trying things. And maybe he’s so open to trying things, that there isn’t a limit on things he’s prepared to try.”

She continued: 

“It’s hard for your fingers not to go to Google or your mind not to go to something like pica and that is when children eat indiscriminately objects that are not intended to be eaten. But it doesn’t mean popping something into your mouth is necessarily pica. 

“Because it sounds very much like a sensory seeking stimulation behaviour… So I would be saying, explore this with curiosity regarding his stimulation levels. Might this be happening when he is over or under stimulated? And that’s going to look very different for different children... Some of the busiest kids out there do endless activities and they manage it. Others, school is all they can manage and they need a lot of downtime and free time to process that. And many more kids fall somewhere in the middle. One or two activities is fine, but also free time during the week. 

“Watch the waves of stimulation in his day. Does he tend to kind of run at a pace that can cause overstimulation?... I’m also thinking an occupational therapy assessment could be helpful here. Because it could be a way of exploring some of that sensory seeking stimulation stuff. It could look at, are there other things he could be doing that would alleviate or offset the need to then be putting things in his mouth?” 

Main image: A child goes for a walk with his mother. Picture by: Andrey Deryabin / Alamy Stock Photo


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