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How to stop my toddler from chewing on random objects

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Tired of constantly keeping an eye on your toddler to prevent them from chewing on random items? Learn practical strategies we tested on our two kids to stop the munchies and keep your little one safe from potential hazards.

We found that the cornerstones of an effective strategy to deal with your toddler’s chewing habit are:

  • Childproofing your home. Your kids will always find some random stuff to chew but the less there is the easier it is to manage.
  • Offering safe alternatives to chew on. The key here is to find the favourite texture of your little one and always have it on hand.
  • Teaching boundaries. This is about reinforcing good behaviours as much a deterring bad ones. The importance is to be consistent.

But before we dig into these strategies let’s get back to the basics.

When chewing gets out of control

Take a look at this picture.

When chewing gets out of control.

If you are wondering what you are seeing, the grey thing is a floor mat made of foam. And those little marks you see all over it, that’s the teeth marks of my younger son. At 1.5 years old he is obsessed with undoing those floor mats and chewing on them all day.

So as parents we know the feeling. It is like you are on a never-ending mission to prevent your toddler from chewing on everything in sight. 

From keys to shoes and everything in between, it’s as if your little one has turned into a tiny human vacuum cleaner, sucking up anything they can get their hands on. But worry not! 

This is a common phase that most toddlers go through. Our oldest son got over it after he got most of his teeth out. And in the meantime there are ways to manage and even prevent this behaviour.

Addressing this issue is crucial not only for your sanity but also for your child’s safety. Random objects can pose choking hazards, harbour bacteria, or contain toxic substances. 

Just like a detective searching for hidden dangers, it’s your job to keep a vigilant eye on your child and their surroundings. In this post, we’ll explore practical strategies to help you stop the munchies and keep your toddler safe from potential hazards. 

So, buckle up and get ready to embark on this journey toward a chew-free, happy home!

Why is my toddler chewing on everything 

To tackle your toddler’s random chewing habits, it’s essential to understand the driving forces behind their behaviour. Think of it as trying to solve a puzzle – knowing the pieces helps you put it all together. 

The most common reasons why your little one might be turning into an indiscriminate chewing machine:

Teething and the need for oral stimulation: As your toddler’s teeth continue to emerge, they may experience discomfort, making them seek relief through chewing. Their gums can feel like a construction site with new structures constantly popping up, causing pressure and soreness.

Exploration and curiosity: At this age, toddlers are natural explorers, eager to learn about the world around them. They often use their mouths as tools to investigate new textures, shapes, and tastes. Imagine their world like an uncharted territory, and their mouths are the tiny adventurers on a quest for discovery.

Sensory-seeking behaviour: Some toddlers have a heightened need for sensory input, which may lead them to chew on various items to satisfy their cravings. It’s like their senses are hungry for stimulation, and chewing is their way of indulging in a sensory buffet.

To effectively address your toddler’s chewing habits, it’s crucial to consider these underlying reasons. 

Identifying the root cause can help you choose the best approach and provide targeted solutions to prevent your child from munching on random objects. 

To talk about our particular case, our two sons had different chewing behaviours:

  • The first one only chewed when he was teething. Easy to recognize the pattern. And as long as he got some relief from teething he would stop.
  • The second one is chewing all the time and everything. He likes to switch texture and shapes. This is clearly a sensory thing going on.

Keep in mind that every child is unique, and your little one’s chewing behaviour may be driven by a combination of factors. So, stay curious and open-minded as you embark on this chew-detective mission.

Childproofing Your Home: Minimizing Access to Unsafe Chewing Items

Transforming your home into a chew-free haven starts with effective childproofing. 

Consider it like building a fortress against potential dangers, where you’re the architect designing a safe space for your little one. 

By childproofing your home, you can create a safe haven where your toddler can explore and play without the constant worry of them chewing on dangerous objects. The process may require some effort, but the peace of mind you gain is priceless.

Here are some tips to help you minimize access to unsafe items. And if you want more general advice on childproofing your house head over here.

Identify potential hazards

Begin by getting down to your toddler’s eye level and scanning your home for objects that could be dangerous if chewed. These may include small items such as coins or batteries, and larger items like houseplants or cleaning supplies. Think of this as a reconnaissance mission, gathering intel on potential threats lurking in your home.

Keep unsafe items out of reach 

Once you’ve identified the hazards, it’s time to put them in secure locations. Store small items in high cabinets or drawers with childproof locks, and place larger items behind barriers or in locked storage areas. It’s like building a moat around your castle, keeping unwanted intruders at bay.

On the topic of childproof locks let me tell you that there is no such thing. At best childproof locks will slow them down. But in our experience if it is not adult proof it won’t be child proof either.

Secure furnitures and chords

Make sure that heavy furniture, like bookshelves and TVs, is anchored to the wall to prevent tip-overs. Additionally, secure electrical cords and blind cords to minimize the risk of entanglement or chewing. Imagine these cords as the tendrils of a dangerous octopus, and your job is to keep them out of your toddler’s grasp.

Create a safe and engaging environment

Provide your child with a designated play area filled with age-appropriate toys and activities. This helps keep them occupied and reduces the chances of them seeking out unsafe items to chew on. It’s like setting up a playground within the fortress, ensuring your little one stays entertained and secure.

Things to consider when they have older siblings

Childproofing isn’t really something that’s done once and for all. You must always be on the lookout for potential new chewing dangers.

But it is nowhere as true as when your toddler has older siblings. Because you know what’s a real danger for chewing? Things like small lego pieces. Or round candies like Skittles. This is the kind of items older siblings will happily scatter around without thinking much about it.

Case in point, see the picture below where the little brother decided that it would be fun to chew the plastic wheels from his big brother’s toy car.

Chewing on big brother’s car.

You definitely need to pay attention to that. And it helps to explain to the older siblings the danger of those small items for their little brother or sister. If they are old enough they might even be an extra pair of eyes that will help you look for potential dangers.

Redirecting the Behaviour: Offering Safe Alternatives

Now that you’ve fortified your home against potential chewing hazards, it’s time to guide your little explorer towards safer alternatives. Redirecting their behaviour is like planting a garden of enticing, chew-friendly options that satisfy their cravings while keeping them safe. 

Here’s how you can offer your child appropriate alternatives:

1. Introduce suitable chew toys and teething aids: Provide your toddler with a variety of safe, age-appropriate chew toys, such as silicone teething rings, textured chewable necklaces, or soft fabric toys. These items act as a chewable oasis in the desert of forbidden objects, quenching your little one’s need for oral stimulation. Pro-tip: if your toddler ignores his or her chew toys it is likely because they don’t like the texture of it. Find out what texture they like and you’ll have your safe alternative.

As an example here is the favourite multi-texture chewing toy of our little one.

Little brother’s favourite multi texture chewing toy.

2. Encourage the use of safe alternatives through positive reinforcement: When you notice your child using their chew toys, offer praise and encouragement to reinforce this positive behaviour. It’s like watering your garden of safe alternatives, helping it grow and flourish while keeping the weeds of dangerous chewing at bay.

3. Monitor your toddler’s preferences and adapt as needed: Pay attention to which toys and textures your child prefers, and update their chewable options accordingly. This may involve rotating toys or introducing new ones to keep them engaged. It’s like curating an ever-changing exhibit at a museum, keeping your little one’s interest piqued while satisfying their sensory cravings.

By offering your child safe alternatives and positively reinforcing their use, you can help redirect their chewing behaviour away from random objects. It’s a gentle, proactive approach that not only keeps your toddler safe but also nurtures their growth and development.

Teaching Boundaries: Establishing Safe Chewing Rules

Now that you’ve created a secure environment and provided your child with safe alternatives, it’s time to teach them some boundaries. Establishing safe chewing rules is like setting up traffic signs on the road of life, guiding your toddler toward responsible behaviour. 

Here’s how you can help your little one understand and respect these boundaries:

Communicating expectations and setting limits: Clearly explain to your child what items are safe to chew on and which ones are off-limits. Use simple, age-appropriate language and repeat the rules as needed. It’s like setting up a signpost at a fork in the road, helping your toddler choose the right path.

Age-appropriate strategies for enforcing boundaries: When your child tries to chew on a forbidden object, gently but firmly remove it from their grasp and remind them of the rule. Offer a safe alternative instead and praise them for making a better choice. It’s like steering them back on track when they veer off-course, helping them learn from their mistakes.

Reinforcing positive behaviour and discouraging unsafe chewing habits: Celebrate your child’s successes in following the rules and encourage them to continue making safe choices. When they struggle or slip up, be patient and consistent in your response, guiding them back to the right path. It’s like walking beside them on their journey, supporting them every step of the way.

By teaching your toddler boundaries and establishing safe chewing rules, you help foster a sense of responsibility and self-control. It’s an invaluable life skill that will benefit them far beyond their early years, guiding them like a trusty compass through the twists and turns of life.

Tips for Preventing Chewing When Out and About

As you venture beyond the safe confines of your home, it’s essential to be prepared for your toddler’s chewing habits to resurface. It’s like going on a hike through unfamiliar terrain, requiring extra vigilance and planning to keep your little one safe. Here are some strategies for preventing chewing incidents when you’re out and about:

1. Preparing for outings and anticipating challenges: Before leaving the house, pack a bag with your child’s favourite chew toys and teething aids. Think of it as a portable chew-free toolkit, equipped with all the necessary tools to navigate the unpredictable world outside your home.

2. Strategies for keeping your toddler engaged and occupied: During outings, focus on engaging your child with conversations, games, or other distractions. It’s like offering them a captivating trail of breadcrumbs, leading them away from the temptation of random objects.

3. Quick interventions to prevent chewing incidents in public spaces: Keep a watchful eye on your child, and be ready to intervene if they attempt to chew on something unsafe. Gently remind them of the rules and offer a safe alternative from your bag. It’s like being their personal lifeguard, always on duty and ready to dive in when needed.

By being proactive and prepared, you can minimize your toddler’s chewing incidents outside the home. It’s a crucial step in teaching them how to adapt their behaviour to different environments, like a chameleon blending into various landscapes while staying true to its nature. So, embrace the adventure and enjoy your outings with the confidence that you’ve got the tools and strategies to keep your little one safe and chew-free.

Sometimes incidents just happen despite you having done your best to prevent it. So just in case it is good to be familiar with the emergency maneuvers you can perform to save your child from choking.

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