ZocdocAnswersWhy do kids chew their fingers?

Question

Why do kids chew their fingers?

I'm a relatively new mom, age 30, and my daughter is constantly chewing her fingers and hands. What is the cause of this? Why does that feel good to her? How can I get her to stop?

Answer

Most of the time, finger nail biting and finger sucking or chewing are normal behaviors in small children. Although in adults, we often think about nail biting as associated primarily with stress and anxiety, children often engage in these behaviors primarily out of curiosity or boredom. Small children use all of their senses to explore their worlds, and this includes putting things in their mouths! Generally, biting the nails or chewing on the fingers therefore does not indicate a medical problem. Gentle parenting techniques, such as redirection, can be helpful. If for example you are able to notice that the behavior is associated with certain triggers (for example, say she only chews her fingers while riding in the car), you may be on the lookout to redirect your daughter into other activities, like providing her with a toy to play with. Occasionally, serious biting or chewing can be a sign of stress or anxiety, especially if the child bloodies or seriously damages the fingers or if it results in infection. In these situations, it is always best to bring her to see your pediatrician so that you can talk through the issue and figure out if something more needs to be done.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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