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