Why Is My Toddler Licking Everything? Reasons and Preventive Tips

Written by Daisy
Last updated:
Reviewed by Margaret

Many of us have witnessed our kids’ curious habit of licking objects they shouldn’t. This leaves us questioning, “Why is my toddler licking everything?” It’s understandable to feel concerned about this behavior, but don’t worry. 

In this article, I’ll delve into the reasons behind it and share some tips on managing it. Let’s explore why our toddlers have an irresistible urge to lick everything.

The Science Behind this Toddler’s Habit

Since I had the same problem as you do, I’d first like to share the experts’ opinions on this topic.

Toddlers’ Curiosity and Sense of Exploration

According to Mona Amin, toddlers are curious and want to explore the world around them. This includes their sense of taste, too. As they transition from babies to toddlers, they become more independent and aware of their surroundings. This leads them to touch, smell, see, and, yes, even lick everything. 

Sensory Information and Comfort

Furthermore, Holly Schiff explained that licking objects is how toddlers receive new sensory information. Repetitive licking may even give your child a sense of comfort or mimicry of a family pet.

Reasons Why Toddlers Lick Everything

Sensory Experience

Toddlers might lick everything because they enjoy the sensory experience. Exploring new textures and tastes through their mouths is a way to learn about their environment.

Comforting Habit

Licking things may provide comfort for toddlers. It can remind them of being breastfed or sucking on a pacifier. This comforting habit can be a source of self-soothing for toddlers.

Curiosity and Exploration

Toddlers are curious and love to explore their surroundings. Licking objects is one way for them to learn about the world around them. They might enjoy tasting new things. Seeing how different materials feel in their mouths also makes them happy.

Attention-Seeking Behavior

Toddlers might lick things to get attention from their parents or caregivers. It can be a way for them to test boundaries and see how adults react to their behavior.

Imitating Others

Toddlers often imitate the behavior of people and animals around them. They might mimic this behavior if they see a pet licking themselves or other objects.

Could My Toddler’s Licking Habits be Harmful?

Licking objects is a common habit among toddlers, but as a parent, it’s natural to be worried about the potential risks. In this section, we’ll discuss some common licking habits and whether they’re harmful or not.

Harmless Licking Habits

Some harmless licking habits include licking lips, fingers, and toys. These behaviors are a normal part of a toddler’s exploration and self-soothing. Although they may expose your child to germs, they’re generally not harmful.

Potentially Harmful Licking Habits

There are some licking habits that can pose a potential risk to your child’s health. For example, if your toddler licks a dirty thing, it can expose them to harmful bacteria and viruses. Moreover, if your child ingests dirt, it can lead to an upset stomach or diarrhea. 

To keep your home safe if your toddler licks everything, clean surfaces regularly. Also, keep harmful objects out of reach and use natural-based products.

Stop the Licking Madness – Tips & Tricks

While telling your toddler “no licking” might help at the moment, it’s not a long-term solution. So, what can you do to help your toddler break this habit and develop healthy habits? 

Here are some tips:

  • Engage your toddler’s senses with sensory play. For instance, let them play with shaving cream, paint, or edible sand.
  • Incorporate activities that work fine motor skills. 
  • Be consistent and tell them, “We don’t lick things,” as you remove or put away whatever they’re licking. Redirecting the conversation can also be effective.
  • Offer to chew toys or chewy, sour, or minty snacks to meet their oral sensory-seeking behavior. 
  • Analyze objects differently. Ask them to explain what they feel or see or sniff an object to engage other senses.
  • If your kid is licking something that isn’t dangerous, ignoring the behavior can be effective. Your toddler should stop independently once they are past this developmental phase.

How long does the licking phase last in toddlers?

It depends. This phase can last from a few weeks to a few months. Most toddlers outgrow this behavior with positive reinforcement and redirection.

For instance, provide them with safe and appropriate objects to explore. You can use teething toys or sensory bins. Encouraging them to engage in appropriate behavior can also be effective.

FAQ

Can teething cause my toddler to lick everything?

Yes, teething can cause toddlers to put objects in their mouths or lick them as a way of soothing their sore gums.

Is it safe to let my toddler continue licking everything?

While it is normal for kids to explore with their mouths, ensure that the objects are clean and safe. You can also work on redirecting your kids’ behavior to more appropriate forms of exploration.

Can licking everything be a sign of an underlying medical condition?

In rare cases, yes. Examples include autism spectrum disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. If you’re worried about your child’s behavior, talk to a doctor.

What if my toddler licks objects in public places or outside the home?

To stop the spread of germs and illness, discourage your kid from licking objects outside the home. Bring along safe objects for them to explore instead.

Can medications or supplements cause my toddler to lick everything?

Some medications or supplements can cause dry mouth or altered taste sensations. This could lead to excessive licking behavior in toddlers. Talk to a doctor if you notice that some medication is causing excessive licking.

Conclusion

I hope you now have all the answers to your question – Why is my toddler licking everything? I also hope that after reading this article, you are less worried than before. 

Remember – tracking your child’s conduct and investigating any underlying issues is a crucial step. Also, ensure that your home is secure for your curious little one. Keep in mind that each child is unique. And if you have concerns about your toddler’s conduct, seek advice from a doctor.

Until next time!

Photo of author
Daisy Martinez, a Certified Financial Planner and mother of two, blends finance expertise from Ohio State and Anderson School of Management with hands-on parenting insights. Founder of "mamallove.com" and "cashsavvytips.com", she's passionate about guiding parents in financial and parenting realms.

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