Q&A: 4 Year Old Won’t Stop Chewing Objects

CME WebsitesBehavior, Challenging Behavior

blockquote_bgI have a 4 1/2 year old niece who chews on anything and everything. Her biting of objects seems to be getting worse. She chews toys, crayons, furniture, etc. She recently leaned over and bit the family’s couch and put a hole in the leather. All of her dolls have chewed up feet and hands. She chews holes in the sleeves of her long sleeved shirts and the necklines. She does it when she’s at home, in the car, at preschool, basically anywhere. She will also bite any sparkles or raised items off her shirts as well. She never swallows the items she chews. She recently bit a hole in the bottom of a water bottle while riding in the car. Is this a sensory seeking behavior or a behavioral issue? Any help and guidance of how to curb these behaviors would be greatly appreciated.

We would suggest definitely seeking an occupational therapy evaluation for this little girl right away, since it definitely sounds like the problem is oral-sensory seeking in nature. An occupational therapist can help determine the best course of action for diminishing her oral fixation or channeling it into more socially acceptable behaviors. You can read an article on oral fixation.

She may benefit from a chewy necklace or bracelet  or other suitable chewy toy that she can carry with her and be reminded to use when she has the need to chew.

She clearly is getting feedback from her biting and chewing and seems to crave it, so it’s just a matter of channeling it to something more appropriate. At almost 5 she is old enough to be taught that it is ok to chew on her specific chewy necklace/bracelet, but not on her toys, clothing, etc. Also, gum would be an acceptable way to work on the chewing need. You can also buy her an electric or vibrating tooth brush, which will give her more oral stimulation. Offer her foods with more spice or intense flavors which offer more oral input than bland foods, and offer treats like licorice which require more chewing and oral feedback.