During a baby’s oral stage, they get the urge to take everything they could get their hands on and put it in their mouth. They usually do this when they’re teething or when they want to explore the world around them. But, what about when an older child suddenly starts chewing on their shirt?
A child may seek oral stimulation during their development stages. This is rooted in a human’s most basic methods and need for self-regulation and calming. Older kids may also still seek this, and not just infants or toddlers.
When you notice your child suddenly putting the neckline, hem or the cuff of their shirt into their mouth, they are most likely subconsciously looking for a way to stimulate their mouths and jaws. Occupational therapists refer to this as proprioceptive input.
When a child seeks ways to calm themselves, they resort to something that is self-directed and predictable such as chewing on their own shirts. Some cases show that t-shirt chewing is a sign of anxiety, ADHD, or other developmental issues. If this is something your child has trouble controlling, then it’s best to see a doctor about it.
If you think this habit of chewing on their shirt is problematic, it’s important to talk to your child about it. Be careful not to come off as judgmental or make your child feel embarrassed or ashamed of themselves. It’s always better to try a gentler and more exploratory approach.