If you think you have a problem because your toddler is mouthing things all the time, don’t fret. Instead, keep calm and try to understand where your little guy is coming from.
To a toddler, the world is a big, big place to be explored. Given the fact that a child’s world is somewhat limited in scope and size, they naturally want to explore whatever is in their reach.
One method by which young children explore is ‘mouthing’ i.e. putting objects in their mouths. It’s all part and parcel of using our 5 senses to explore the world around us.
Reasons why your toddler is mouthing things
Aside from exploring their world, when a toddler is mouthing objects, it can also be because:
- …he is teething. It’s comforting and soothing for babies and toddlers who are teething to chew on something.
- …it is emotionally soothing. Up to this point in your child’s life, sucking means ‘survival.’ When the pacifier and breast or bottle are no longer a part of their daily routine, they usually look for something else to fill the void.
Now, please allow me to digress for a moment…. My daughter Elizabeth really loved her pacifier. She was only 9 months old when we learned baby #3 was on the way, so a few weeks before I was due, we decided it was time for Elizabeth to lose her binky.
She wasn’t happy but, being the little angel she is, she didn’t put up much of a fuss. Instead, she just picked up her little figure of ‘Sister Bear Berenstain’ and began sucking on Sister Bear’s head.
Needless to say it didn’t take us long to decide that an orthodontics-friendly pacifier was much better than a bear. So the pacifier came out of hiding and went back into her mouth for another few months until she gave it up on her own.
Protecting your toddler
Realistically speaking, there is little you can do to keep a toddler from putting things in their mouths. But what you CAN do is protect them by keeping things that are harmful out of reach.
- Older siblings should be required to play with small objects at a table, on their bed or in an area the baby/toddler does not have access to. Also, make sure no small parts are left behind afterwards.
- Provide alternatives. Soft toys that are too large to fit in their mouths will often satisfy their craving to chew without posing any danger. Even the corner of a favorite blanket is acceptable.
- Keep toxic substances up in high places and/or under lock and key.
- Keep money, sewing items and other small things used for hobbies and general household use out of reach. NOTE: Out of reach doesn’t mean on top of the kitchen counter or your dresser. Toddlers may easily climb things to get to certain objects.
- Give your child small bites of food. Even if the food is chewable, toddlers tend to take bites that are larger than they can safely manage so be careful.
In case of emergency
Even the best and most careful parents can’t be everywhere at every moment. Stuff happens, so when or if it does, you need to be prepared.
If your child ingests something toxic or is under obvious distress (think blocked airways), time is of the essence. Perform lifesaving measures if necessary and get them to the ER immediately.
If your child is able to breathe and you know what it is they have swallowed, call your local ER, pediatrician or poison control center for instructions on what to do.
Above all else, remain calm and don’t beat yourself up.
If you don’t, your child may pick up on your demeanor and react accordingly. This can be especially harmful if he/she has ingested something that will hit his/her bloodstream.
My parents had come for a visit the weekend we were putting up our Christmas tree — Zach’s first Christmas. He was to have his first birthday on New Year’s Eve, so he was walking and talking and enjoying the festivities.
He had also just recently started brushing his teeth with toothpaste (with help, of course). Well, to make a long story short, he’d found my dad’s cream deodorant in the bathroom and decided to brush his teeth with it.
Thankfully, he came to me when the toothpaste “tasted funny.” Because we were unsure of how much deodorant, if any, he had ingested, we called the hospital and were instructed to induce vomiting. I
Needless to say I don’t think my son ever put anything in his mouth again that didn’t belong there.
There was also the time that my 16-month-old daughter came into the room carrying a handful of change she had managed to retrieve from the purse of her 7-year-old sister. When I asked her to hand the money to me, she did.
But then she reached into her mouth and said, “It went in my tummy.”
We were set to leave the next morning on vacation with my in-laws, so I wasn’t too keen on sitting in the ER waiting for an x-ray, especially since she showed no signs of distress. (FYI: Emma is child #4, so by this time, not much rattles my cage.)
Well, 3 or 4 days later, my mother-in-law was changing Em’s diaper and announced she’d passed the penny. Being a grandmother, my mother-in-law rinsed the penny and has it to this day.
Like I said, stuff happens. But it will happen less often if you are vigilant and careful with what you allow your little muncher to be exposed to.
What do you do when your toddler is mouthing everything in sight? Share your tips with us by leaving a comment!