Your child chewing clothes - is this a symptom?

Have you ever noticed that your child is chewing on her clothes? It could be out of boredom, it could just be a phase they're going through at that particular time where it's more than likely the only way they can currently express themselves.

Children are notorious for putting just about anything in their mouths, and while this is completely natural it does not always mean their actions are purposeful or intentional. Children simply explore their world by mouthing objects. Part of learning is exploring with your mouth since children do not have developed hands during the early months and years of life. Mouthing becomes problematic when chewing becomes so intense that clothing is damaged or destroyed.

At what age it is normal?

Some children chew on clothes out of boredom, others do it to calm themselves, and still, others because the action provides them with a soothing and calming sensation. Chewing and mouthing is not something that occurs at a certain age; some children begin doing it as early as infancy, while other children never engage in such behavior.

Some use chewing as a way of communicating their wants or needs; they will chew incessantly until either the object they desire is produced (toy, candy), or someone pays attention to them (coos and talks).

What phrases to avoid?

Many people phrase this command as 'stop it immediately!' or something comparable. It is said with a stern voice and accompanied by a fierce look, not to mention a complete halt in activity.  

The problem arises when trying to distinguish the difference between a child who is merely exploring his world through chewing versus one who is being defiant and destructive.

With minor infractions, such as nibbling on clothing, the use of an angry tone of voice can be counter-productive because you cannot tell if your child is just playing around or actually desires your attention.

Instead use phrases that convey what you want from them without arousing undue stress.

What phrases should be used?

In order for parents to determine if their children are chewing on clothes as a means of demonstrating boredom or need for attention, parents should use phrases such as "I can see you really like chewing your shirt. If you would like, we can find something else for you to chew on." This way the child will have no doubt what is expected from them and they will be more inclined to comply with those rules.

For those children who are merely seeking some manner of soothing sensation by mouthing objects, parents should use phrases that convey that it is acceptable to chew on clothing as long as they do not cause damage to others' items. Phrases such as "It's fine if you want to chew on your shirt so long as none of your friends' things get hurt" will help guide proper behavior.

When dealing with defiant children that are chewing on their clothes, phrases such as "I know you think it's fun to chew on your shirt all day long" should be used. When said in a calm voice accompanied by a gentle touch it is possible to let the child know what is wrong without inciting further behavior.

A major part of establishing rules and boundaries for children is allowing them to understand what is expected of them. If they are not sure if their actions meet with approval or disapproval, then they will continue engaging in those behaviors regardless of any consequences involved.

As parents, one of our primary goals should be to ensure that our children do not engage in any harmful or dangerous behavior while also teaching them how to behave properly within society.

What are the possible reasons?

Clothing chewing is typically a sign of stress and/or anxiety. Children may chew on their clothing because they are not verbal enough to express themselves in other ways, such as telling you when they're bored or anxious.

It can also be a form of self-soothing due to the fact that it provides grounding pressure on the body through the physical act of chewing. Other causes for this include colic, reflux disease, food sensitivities, and acid reflux disorder (which causes pain).

Chewing could also contribute to a problem if a child has sensory processing issues, autism spectrum disorder, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Or it could be a way to release energy if the child has been moving around constantly or exhibiting other hyperactive behaviors.

What should you do?

If your child is acting out from stress and anxiety, make sure to check in with her during quiet time and calm activities. Sometimes children will chew on clothing simply because they want attention from a parent or caregiver who seems preoccupied or distracted.

If necessary, give them an item of yours to hold onto while you continue the task at hand. This way they know that even though you're occupied, you're still there for them when they need something. If this behavior continues, consult your pediatrician to rule out any medical problems that might be causing the anxiety.

If chewing persists after medical and dietary factors have been ruled out, creative outlets such as art or music classes may be helpful. If you think your child is chewing clothes because they need to release energy but also want an alternative to running around like a maniac all day, look for age-appropriate activities to stimulate their senses without making them excessively restless. Chewing clothing can be dangerous if it becomes excessive, so consult your pediatrician if the problem continues.

You can suggest an activity

There are a lot of other things to do for your child to release energy.

  • Movement Games: try jumping, climbing, or crawling around.
  • Musical Activities: play a musical instrument, dance to music, drum on a beat-up box with spoons and forks
  • Sports Games: football, dodgeball, soccer, or any other sports that you can adapt for toddlers
  • Older children will enjoy dramatic games such as acting out stories from books or plays they have seen at school.
  • Outdoor Activities: kick a ball around the garden(use an old one so it won't matter if'n it gets marked), or play with water in a sandpit, etc., take your child swimming or roll downhills! There are lots of fun things to do outside which get you moving too! This will allow your children to deal with regulation and affect and therefore feel better.
  • Imaginative Play: let your children play with their toys in new ways or offer them different toys to use

These are just some ideas that can help you release energy but if these are not enough try looking up more things to do with your child on the internet! Just remember safety first, so if your child wants to climb make sure they are supervised in case they fall, etc.,

Change clothes to foods!

Chewable jewelry that is safe to chew on, such as a necklace made of soft foods. Play-Doh or clay can also be used in a similar way. Chewies are a form of oral sensory input device for the mouth which help children with Autism and other developmental disorder to calm down when they experience "sensory overload".

Balls or toys with textured surfaces provide interesting sensations in the mouth and strengthen jaw muscles. The perfect fit teether makes it easier for your child to hold this unique toy without dropping it while exercising both hands and teeth simultaneously. Sensory chewing products offer proprioceptive feedback when he chews through touch, body movement, sound, or even airflow from his own breathing.

Chewable jewelry has been designed specifically to address oral sensory needs and provides effective calming proprioceptive input, which may assist children with autism and sensory challenges to improve focus and self-regulation.

You can try such chewy items for the lunch as

  • pasta necklaces
  • wiggly eyes fruit shapes
  • cheese stars
  • dried fruits
  • chewing gum
  • nuts, hard cheeses

Please, don't forget that it is necessary:    

  1. to give children smaller portions than adults;    
  2. to let your child choose what and how much they eat;    
  3. to combine different foods throughout the day;   
  4. to provide fresh fruit and vegetables as snacks.

Will breathing prevent chewing clothes?

Over-breathing or rapid breathing can lead to hyperventilation, which may trigger more anxiety and stress. That's why it is crucial that you teach your child the correct way of breathing. However, it is important to understand that breathing exercises are not a panacea but one of many tools in managing stress.

We would recommend learning proper diaphragmatic breathing techniques which can be easily self-taught using online resources. There are some formal courses on this subject for adults too.

How can your child cope with anxiety?

Building your child's resilience is one of the best things you can do for them.

For children who struggle to deal with their anxiety, there are a number of evidence-based treatments available which have been developed specifically for children and young people. These therapies help a child to learn skills they can use throughout life to overcome anxiety and feel better about themselves.

For example, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy that helps children to cope with distressing situations and the challenges they face in everyday life. CBT teaches practical skills, like breathing techniques or thinking positive thoughts, which can be used in all sorts of situations like starting at school or meeting new people.

So next time you find your child chewing clothes, try not to panic! Perhaps they are just experiencing some anxiety and need help to develop their coping strategies - it's always best to get support rather than worry! Medication can be used alongside talking therapies if desired by parents and doctors. As ever, speak to your GP for further advice about what is most suitable for your child.

However children may also chew clothes if they are under the influence of certain substances such as street drugs, alcohol, or medication. How can you help your child? Be there for them! 

It is essential to teach your child how to deal with their anxiety so they know what to do when they feel overwhelmed. We recommend learning proper diaphragmatic breathing techniques which can be easily self-taught using online resources. There are some formal courses on this subject for adults too. If a psychologist has diagnosed a child with an anxiety disorder, then that means it's necessary to discuss the issue and plan treatment together.

If you think that your child may benefit from specialist treatment, we would advise visiting your GP or pediatrician who will be able to refer you to mental health professionals in your local area.


Chewing clothes is one of many signs of anxiety in children. While there are other possible reasons for chewing, parents should seek mental health support with their child's pediatrician if the behavior is persistent or distressing.