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Why do Kids Chew on Their Shirts and What Can You Do About It?

I will never forget the day I realized I had a chewer. When my son was a baby he would chew on the side of the crib… no biggie, he was teething right? The problem is that it didn’t stop. When he was four years old, he moved to a wooden bunk bed with his brother, and had a railing on the side. I remember coming in one morning to a pile of wooden pieces on the floor. He had literally been chewing the railing so much that there were shavings and chunks of wood littering the floor. We ended up having to sell that bed (for next to nothing now) and get a metal one that was immune to my little beaver’s teeth. Then we started doing school and slowly but surely I had to throw away every single felt, pen, pencil, and eraser as they succumbed to the activities of my son’s mouth. But the worst part is the clothing! Both of my sons chew their clothing. They chew as they watch TV or do school. They do it without really knowing what they are doing and they ruin nearly every shirt they wear. The necks are stretched and malformed, the sleeves are twisted and extra wide at the bottom. Over the years I have asked myself why do kids chew on their shirts (and other things) and through research, I have come to understand some of the process and what I can do to help. Keep reading and make sure to pin this for later!

why do kids chew on their shirts (and pencils, and beds, and seatbelts, and whatever else they can find) and what can we do about it? Sensory Processing disorder | homeschooling | homeschooling special needs | child chewing on shirt | how to stop chewing on shirt | oral fixation | SPD | sensory issues | homeschooling sensory issues | sensory tools | sensory equipment |

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Why Do Kids Chew on Their Shirts (and other things)?

Kids chew as a way of meeting a need. The severity of how much your child chews can be an indicator, but isn’t necessarily something to be overall concerned about if it is not accompanied by other symptoms. LOTS of children chew, it just isn’t something we talk about that often and so we can sometimes feel like our child has a serious problem. Although it can definitely be a symptom of SPD (sensory processing disorder), oral fixation or other conditions, it definitely is not a diagnoses of those conditions. How you approach it is going to be dependant on how severe your child’s case is and what works for them. In our situation, chewing does not interfere with their life. They may suck on their shirt or jacket while they are bored or to help them concentrate with school, but they stop when they are outside playing with their friends. When in doubt, take them in to a health professional to be assessed (you knew I’d say it right?). The more we have learned about chewing and sensory processing in general, the more we understand our children and what we can do to help. My husband chewed all the way through high school, he recalls chewing pencils flat, and yet he now has an accomplished career without the need or desire to chew when he is in intense or awkward situations. He even  so in our situation I have confidence that for our children it will pass.

why do kids chew on their shirts and what can we do about it?

In essence, we all need or can handle a certain amount of sensory stimulus. Some of us need sensory input in order to concentrate, others are overwhelmed by sensory input. Both of these children can be chewers. While one would chew in order to give them something to do and help them concentrate, listen, or think… a sensory sensitive child might chew when they feel embarrassed or shy or overwhelmed as a way of calming down their central nervous system or releasing some of the emotion they are feeling. Children who have sensory processing difficulties may present both sensory seeking behaviour as well as sensory sensitive behaviour.

How to help kids who chew

If you have a child who chews, whether it be from a condition or just a singular symptom, there are some incredible resources you can use. I recently stumbled upon Fun and Function, an online store that offers educational toys, games, and therapeutic products for special needs kids. There are so many unique solutions on this website, I spent hours just browsing through the pages of products to find out what could work to help my kids concentrate on their school work and save our pencils in the process! We discovered chewies, which are essentially silicone pendants on a necklace. They are safe, BPA free, and readily accessible when they feel the need to chew. They also aren’t too noticeable or strange, other children don’t even notice what they are and my boys feel confident wearing them.

why do kids chew on their shirts? Come find out what you can do to help!

The chewy superpack

They have ones on a necklace, ones that fit over a pencil as well as ones that you can put on the tips of pencils if your child likes to chew on the erasers. Both of my boys chose their favorite ones and started wearing them immediately and something amazing happened… they stopped chewing on their shirts! They concentrated better in our homeschool on their lessons, we saw a huge improvement! It kind of makes me wonder why I waited so long. The prices on Fun and Function are really reasonable, their shipping is fast, and the list of resources they have available is HUGE.

Get a Coupon Code!

Not only is this a fantastic resource at a great price, but I have an exclusive coupon code to offer you! Simply click on the button below to generate a $10 off coupon if you spend over $99. They offer free shipping within the US on most purchases as well so if you have been considering trying a chewy or some of the other amazing resources for special needs, there are some really amazing learning resources on there that would benefit any child really, especially in a homeschool situation.

why do kids chew on their shirts? Come find out what you can do to help!

You can find them on their website at funandfunction.com as well as on their social media below:

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Do you have a chewer? Comment below!

This is a sponsored post, meaning I have received compensation, either in pay or product, in exchange for my honest review. All words, opinions and thoughts expressed are my own. I only review products/brands that I know will be a good fit for my family/brand so I generally post positive reviews on products and companies I already love and want to share with you! Read my full disclosure policy HERE.

Comments

  1. Thanks for this great resource Rebecca! I do have a chewer. I never knew that it could be related to a sensory disorder. I already know that he is very sensitive and shy but he also is social. I am now worried but intrigued by it. It does explain why he does it at certain times, probably when he is uncomfortable. It is so funny that I found this post today because just today I was horrified to find his shirt in the laundry that was ragged, stretched out and had holes in it!;( He got very sensitive when I mentioned it so his dad and I just told him to be more aware when he starts doing it. Thanks for the tips and sources!

    • As I have been thinking more about it, I realized that all of my children have sensory quirks. But I think we all do. I used to put my pencil in between my fingers back and forth, back and forth. My 2 year old sucks her thumb and has to put her index finger in and out of her satin folds of her blankie. My 6 year old chews on his shirt, and everything else (the beaver), my 7 year old rocks to put herself to sleep, still. She sucks on her tongue and sniffs her blankie to fall asleep, and my 8 year old sucks on his shirts too. We work on them, but I have really tried not to panic. With the two kids in the middle I have considered getting them assessed but mainly I think they are going to tell me about some of these amazing companies that have solutions to help our children. I really do think they will grow out of them, and for the most part, they don’t seem to interfere with their day to day life. It can be so hard to know what to do or how to approach it, and I think it is a LOT more common than we realize. Even clenching our teeth when we are stressed is a sensory release adults do, some adults bite their nails, etc. We all have our little things we do to help us process sensory information and the more we can help our children find ways of managing this (hopefully without ruining all their shirts) the better. I’m so glad you read this and that it was what you needed to hear, me too! ha! It was super helpful writing it, researching for it, and thinking about my own kids in the process. Thanks for commenting!

    • Same here! Personality shy sensitive and social and chews sometimes but not all the time….shirt collars being destroyed!

  2. Our child started this too at 3.5. He also was biting his nails. We bought “No Bite” by Orly and he stopped biting his nails. If it worked for his nails, we figured it would work for his clothes as well. It did!!! The cool thing is that it is safe for consumption. We took the nail brush (just like a finger nail polish brush) and brushed or dabbed his clothes where he chewed. The behavior stopped in a few days. We did this for about a month and a half and he stopped completely.

    Reply

    • I used the NO BITE too. It did discolor a few shirts where applied, but a few discolored shirts are still cheaper than all of his shirts getting destroyed. He stopped chewing the same day I applied it. I applied it for about a month. I did forget, and skip a day or two, and those shirts came home tattered. You will have to keep up with it everyday. He has gone about 3 months and has not reverted back to the bad behavior yet. If he does, we will get the NO BITE again.

      • I have a son who just turned 5 years old. I can’t remember how long he has been chewing on his jacket and shirt collars. I tried the necklace but they are very strict on his school bus so he can’t wear it. Its a choking hazard yet scarves are allowed pose the same threat. I tried no bit on his nails cause he still sucks his finger but he cries and its torture. I don’t know how to get him to stop. Suggestions?

        • Some chewies come in the form of a bracelet. Is that something your son might use, and would the school allow that?

  3. Thank you so much for this article! My son, he is 5, started chewing on the collars and cuffs of his shirts. He has chewed them to the point of having tiny holes around those areas. He used to bite his nails but my sister gave him a complex about it so he has resorted to twisting his collar and chewing on it. In not sure which one is worse! I have noticed that he does it when he is bored. I visited him at school last week for american education week and noticed he was doing it when he had to sit and listen to his teacher. He is a very social kid and while active he doesn’t do this. I will try the chewies, again, thanks so much.

  4. I’m so glad to find this article and see that I am not alone. My son chews MY shirt. He does it when he’s tired or wants to snuggle. He screams if I block my shirt collar from him and cries (he is about to turn 2). He only does it to my shirts and on occasion his own. Never anyone else.

  5. My 12 year old has been chewing his shjrts for years. Tried the no bite stuff on his collar. It worked! But…. Then he started chewing other random places on his shirts. Ugh!! Just this morning I found his brand new shirt with a quarter size hole in it. I have no clue what to do. He never does it in front of us. He’s supposed to change from his school shirt to an old one when he gets home but since I’m not here all the time it doesn’t happen. He also carries a lot of guilt when the subject is discussed. I’m sure it’s stress related but just not sure how to help him. The prduct shown on here seem babyish so I can’t see him wearing any of these. But at least I have a start on what to look for. Thanks for all of your stories.

  6. Thank you for this article. Out of my 5 children . My 4th is the first time Im dealing with this chewing thing. Im better informed now.

  7. l had the same problem with my class student,who used to chew a jersey, handkerchief or a hat.Thank yu.

  8. Thanks for this. All I can say is wow! I am a nanny and one of my charge, who’s 5 years started doing this, putting holes in his shirt. I will definitely point his parents to this articles. Thanks so much, we never knew there was an explanation.

  9. My 7 year old has always been a chewer and has no other symptoms etc he said he just enjoys chewing. He only likes to chew on cloth or hard plastic like water bottle lids. I make him spit out the small stuff and try to stay on him about shirt collars because it ruins them but he likes to chew the corners of his blankets and pillows and I don’t even mind that. I bought him the silicone necklaces before and he didn’t enjoy them bc they don’t feel the same as cloth. I’m going to have to make him change in to a few specific chew shirts after school I think.

  10. Here is my problem..my 3 year old daughter has autism. She just recently started chewing her shirts. Since she was a baby she has not liked teethers of any sort. I can show you hundreds she has never touched! So the chewlery is out. Something about fabric she prefers. Well she is ruining every single shirt she owns. It’s killing me!! I just bought some of those banadana bibs in hopes of blocking her or she would chew that instead. So far, epic fail! She freaks out with it around her neck of course. I’m at a loss of what to do next! Any ideas?

    • I have the same situation here. I cut fabric up for him to chew and even that didn’t work until finally I cut a “bib” (think the large pull-over Terry cloth kind) out of his old shirts. Now when he watches TV or does school work he wears one of those around his neck and chews that instead! Chewy sticks, chewy jewelry, fabric, frozen teethers, etc all failed but this worked.

  11. Thank you for this blog. I feel so much better about having a 3 year old that chews on her clothes (or blanket… anything fuzzy). I was getting concerned and your article was very helpful.

  12. Former chewer, here! I was diagnosed with OCD at 7 and my parents were dismayed that I chewed up nearly every shirt they put me in, particularly those with long sleeves. I’m 25 now and though I remember my parent’s frustration and tears (and my own embarrassment!) I think a few things worked for me:

    – Wash Cloths/Dish Towels! My parents would run it under the sink for me. Like lots of kids here I had issues with plastic and silicone (fabric only) but that seemed to do the trick after some persuasion.

    – Honestly, medication and therapy. I know that’s what a lot of parents don’t want to hear but I had trouble producing seratonin and it was truly a medical issue. Worth looking into if you’re on the fence.

    – Patience! This one’s hard, but it works. By the time I hit twelve or so I had enough social pressure from my peers that the behavior stopped. Not that it’s any fun for your kid but hey, middle school’s tough!

    Anyway, hang in there, parents!! I promise it gets better!

  13. You may want to have their iron level checked, both of my grandchildren 3 & 5 constantly chew and we found out that both are anemic and have a lipid issue.

  14. So glad I seen this article.. My son is almost 6 yrs old and noticed 3mths ago he started chewing on his shirts.. I thought it was due to his first tooth being loose.. His first tooth fell out and he is still chewing. Also my sons chin area gets red due to the wet shirt. He has a appt for sensory so I will be bringing this up to see what their thoughts are.. Thank you again for this article I now no I am not alone.. I am also going to look into a few things suggestions in the comments.. Thank you all 🙂

  15. This is very important information because newly parents are not aware of why do their children chew the shirts. Its also helpful for me. Recently i purchased a Celebrity Jacket for my daughter and when she wear it always chew this jacket and i want she leave our this bad habit . Thanks and keep going to share a wonderful post like this.

  16. Being a special educator, I have always suspected that my son has some sensory quirks, but the constant chewing did not start until he started losing his baby teeth (a little on the early side just before his 5th birthday) As a baby, he was done with pacifiers at around 5 months, and has not been incredibly orally fixated until losing his teeth. He lost three in the front within a few months and now chewing is such a constant habit that he acquires sores around his mouth from chewing his shirt until the sleeve is soggy more than half way up his arm, or he has a large “spit bib” around the whole front of his shirt. I have thought of buying him some chewy necklaces like I have used with students with sensory processing needs, but this article tipped the decision. Thanks for the resource! I like some of the choices provided on this site better than some of the others I have seen.

  17. My friend Solvei is 14 and a chewer. I swear she is a big girl, but she has problems and is looking for answers. I am tired Of my pencils being chewed on. Please help. This a severe issue. Thanks you for your time.

  18. My friend Solvei is 14 and a chewer. I swear she is a big girl, but she has problems and is looking for answers. I am tired Of my pencils being chewed on. Please help. This a severe issue. Thank you for yuour time

  19. This was very informative. My 7 year d son has recently started this habit of chewing on any ansa everything (except veggies), his favorites were his fingers. At first I thought he was developing finger sucking until I realized he was actually chewing on them. A visit to the dentist proved no anomalies with his teeth. I am definitely going to try those chew Roy’s and hope they assist. Thank you.

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