Why Does My Older Child Chew on Everything?

Question:  My 9 year old chews on everything… erasers, foam rubber, shirt collars.    He has always had an oral fixation since he was a toddler, putting toys in his mouth and chewing on everything in sight.  Is this something more than typical childhood behavior?  I’ve read on some discussion boards that your “Grabbers” are often used by other kids with the same issue.  Looking for advice…

Great question.  For babies and toddlers, putting things in their mouths is a normal stage of oral development.

Some children, however, continue to chew non-food items well past the mouthing/teething stage.  For some, it is a passing phase.  Other individuals will always have a need to chew that may continue into adulthood.

Why do some older kids need to chew?.

Why?  There could be many different reasons, and it’s not always a straight answer.  But in my personal experience with the children I see in therapy, it’s typically one (or a combination of) the following:

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Tooth Grinding – Possible Causes & What You Can Do

While most kids outgrow grinding their teeth, intervention may be necessary if they don’t.  Tooth grinding over a prolonged period (especially with permanent teeth) may put them at risk for worn-down teeth, tooth sensitivity, jaw pain, headaches, etc.  There is no one accepted reason as to why it happens, but there are several factors that may be contributing to the problem:


Tooth Grinding Tips



First and foremost, I recommend that you see a dentist to rule out any underlying medical issues that may be the cause of tooth grinding, such as an abnormal bite, misaligned teeth, etc.  A dentist may also recommend a bite guard, especially if the problem only persists at night.


Check the medications that your child is on.  Is tooth grinding a side effect?  If so, consult with his doctors to see if there is a suitable alternative.

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G-Tube Advice

I am a mother to a baby who is 6.5 months old, corrected age.  He was born at 29 weeks gestational age.  Because of being on a high level of O2 support for a long period of time, being intubated several times, and experiencing reflux, he has had an aversion to liquids and was not able to learn how to suck on a bottle effectively.  A g-tube was placed before he left the NICU.  He is now fed exclusively through the g-tube, but his speech therapist and I are making progress on his oral acceptance of liquids and solids.  However, his oral mechanics still do not allow him to process more than .1 to .2 ml for each swallow.  He has marked tongue thrusting.

Regarding tools —  at this point we are making use of the Baby Grabber and are using a 1 ml syringe for liquid practice.  We have attempted to use several sippy cups without much success so far.  His speech therapist has not suggested any other tools/devices at this point.  Could you suggest products that we could use for feeding practice, tongue placement/mechanics, and general oral work that will help us work towards g-tube independence?  Our speech therapist cannot provide them, so we are looking to purchase just a few items that will have maximum usage and effect.

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Biting when happy + “R” problems

My daughter recently turned 2 and has developed a biting problem.  This is a new behavior, and so far she only bites when she’s happy and playing with us.  It doesn’t seem to be linked to frustration.

On a side note, when she tries to say “r” it comes out “awe,” which I have previously noticed in older children.  I am just wondering if it is normal for toddlers learning to speak to have trouble with enunciating, or if she should be able to say “r” properly at this age.

I recommend that your daughter squeeze a soft stuffed animal such as a bear to replace the biting.  It appears as if she is getting overwhelmed with joy and happiness having this special time playing with mom and dad.  This could be sensory overload, and she doesn’t know what to do with the overabundance of emotion or how to communicate this feeling of real pleasure due to her young age.  You can re-direct the unwanted behavior by saying “no biting, that hurts” and handing her the bear to squeeze.  You can also hand her a Grabber or Y-Chew for her to bite on instead of you. Other alternatives include speaking with her doctor, reading up on sensory overload in books/magazine articles/info on the web, giving her time out (2 minutes for her age), etc.

ARK's Baby Grabber

As far as the r-sound goes, she is just too young to produce this sound correctly yet.  This sound is a late developing sound which may not be used correctly until the age of 8 years according to some studies.  However, to help with developing this sound, you can read to her out loud, emphasizing this sound when it occurs in words.  She may not be able to produce it correctly, but she can still hear this sound being pronounced correctly.  This is called auditory bombardment and should be used in articulation therapy.  Hopefully, you won’t have to concern yourself with this.   You are a wonderful mom and a role model for others to follow.  Keep up the good parenting skills!

All my best,