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I wrote this post last year, but I recently received an e-mail about the very same topic & decided that it was worth sharing again, in hopes that it might help another parent with their child.

Yes, my child chews his clothes.  It drives me crazy.  He chews his shirts, right at the collar, right where it is so obvious that he has been chewing it because it gets tiny holes in it.  I know the reason, so I don’t get upset with him.  I just remind him to stop and have found alternative ideas for him.

child chews everything

Our second son (we have four) was born with hypertonia, high muscle tone.  Without going into my whole pregnancy story & birth story,  I have a bicornuate uterus and it made my pregnancy extremely difficult.  I had low-amniotic fluid, a single-umbilical artery and he had Intrauterine Growth Restriction (he was born at 37 weeks weighing 4 pounds).   So… while he is amazingly wonderful today, we had a rough start.

Around a month or two of age, we realized something wasn’t quite right and that is when we learned of his hypertonia.  Soon after, he started vomiting and threw up every meal for over a year.  He had FPIES (allergic to all foods.  yep.)    He also started to display sensory issues.

By three years of age, the FPIES had gone away (it usually goes away between ages 2 & 3) and he was showing signs that his physical and occupational therapy were working, as his muscle tone was becoming more normal.  The sensory issue remained.


Today he is almost 8 years old and practically lives in dry-fit clothes, because they are soft (thank goodness they are also in style!)  If I try to get him to wear jeans or a collared shirt for picture day or church, it would be like trying to put you in a pair of sandpaper pants.    He can’t stand it.

A young boy sitting with his arms wrapped around his knees looking out a window with text below him.

One time, in 2014, I asked him to lie down on a grassy field to get this picture (he is the one on the left)…  We were at Mickey’s grandma’s farm and we wanted to get a picture with the barn behind them.  It was where Mickey spent so much time as a child, so what a perfect place to capture a picture of our kids.

While we were able to capture a smile because he was thankfully distracted by my husband jumping up and down like a crazy man, laughing and making silly faces, it wasn’t easy.  You would have thought that the grass was made of little nails…  as soon as he got down, he jumped up and refused to lie down again until Mickey started making a fool of himself (Parents are good for that, aren’t they?  Willing to embarrass themselves for the good of the kids). We grabbed our few quick shots & that was that.

Next time that we took pictures outside, we learned our lesson when we asked the boys to get together for a quick picture (note the blanket):

kids on blanket

So, what can you do when your kids hate jeans, hate anything itchy, hates any clothes with tags and chews all of their clothes like they haven’t eaten in weeks?   When it looks like a wild dog has gotten a hold of their collars and sleeves?

Finally, tired of not truly understanding it all, I went back to get my certification in therapy.  I had my degree in elementary education (& writing) but I wanted to be able to help him more.  I have now been a therapist since 2009 and it has been so helpful to study the reasons for why he does things… and now have the answers to help him.

“The biting, sucking and tongue movements all add extra feedback to the sensory system for them to access the “just right” level of activity. This is the level where they are calm and alert, able to concentrate, learn and adapt to changes easily and without any effort. These children often have a high tolerance for sensory input. Sensory seekers who crave movement might also like rough and tumble, enjoy physically intense activities e.g. high slides, riding into walls with their bikes, swinging higher or faster. Sitting quietly in a car or in the classroom make their little body engines run low and chewing on their clothes or toys can be an effective strategy to provide their sensory systems with more feedback in order to stay alert.”~ Carina Taylor

Carina goes on to explain “Secondly, there are sensory sensitive children who are easily over-stimulated by their sensory environment. They tend to be your more anxious children who shows signs of stress in high sensory input environments e.g. classrooms, playground, shopping centres, unfamiliar situations etc. These children often have difficulty regulating their sensory systems; therefore their bodies can easily go into a stress – fight, flight or freeze – mode.  Therefore sensory seekers use chewing on their clothes to activate their systems and sensory sensitive children chew in order to calm their sensory systems.”

Both of these situations describe our son.  When he is scared, he freezes, like a statue.  When he is sitting, he is chewing or fidgeting

It isn’t that they want to do it: chew their clothes or hate what they have on.  There is a reason (there are many).   The most common reasons are sensory-related.  The chewing may be a way to self-soothe or it might be a sensory-seeking action.


1-  Give your child a stress ball.  Our son’s teacher did this (because he was mindlessly breaking crayons in his desk) and it has worked wonders.

2- Invest in clothes that are comfortable… down to the socks & underwear!  Our son hated certain socks and underwear.  I’m not kidding.  We had to search for underwear that were soft and had no tags (finally we found some that they love!) and socks that had no “balls” inside (the seams).    The underwear that we have is by LuckyandMe. It is 100% organic to super-soft tri-blend fabrics.   They are these boxer briefs:

my child hates jeans - sensory ideas
ur sons told me that they “NEVER want the other ones again!” (they only want to wear Lucky & Me from now one.  Each of our 3 boys told me this.)

They make ones for little girls, too (like these day of the week ones):
day of the week underwear
3- Offer a lot of crunchy foods, like carrots.  Beau could eat carrots all day long.  Apples are another good one.

4- Sugar-Free Chewing gum is a great way to keep them busy.  Our son chews a lot of gum.  We buy this kind in bulk because he LOVES it.

5- Be sure to provide a lot of time to release energy (playgrounds, etc…)

6-  Give him things to push. AKA “Heavy Work”.  I remember one of our therapists telling us to give our son a lot of hard physical tasks:  Walk on his hands while we hold his feet (“wheelbarrow”, let him move furniture around, build things in the yard,  carry the groceries into the house, swing from things, climb ropes,  cross the monkey bars, etc…   It works out for us because these are things that he loves to do anyway.

7- Use Chewing pencil toppers:
8- Tumbling class.   Our son takes a class that is like a mini American-Ninja-Warrior episode.

9- Drinking applesauce and yogurt through a straw.

10- If he is chewing on his sleeves, try shorter sleeves.  We’ve seen that this helps.

11- Offer a chewing tube. 

12- Get soft clothing.  It makes a huge difference.  While our son looks ‘dressed down’ most of the day, he still can be fashionable.  (Thank goodness UnderArmour, Nike, etc… all love dry-fit clothing as much as he does!)

13-  Be sure that they are wearing comfortable socks & underwear before you dress them.  I can’t tell you how many times we got to school and he was sockless & shoeless because of this.  It was a mess.  Make sure that socks and underwear are as comfortable as possible.  BoxerBriefs are the best thing for him because the elastic bands around the groin area can be very irritable to them.   For girls, wearing a tank top that is comfortable underneath of their other clothes is a great solution.  (You can get tank top/underwear sets here)girls underwear and tank top

14- Explain that sometimes, we have to wear what we don’t want to wear.  At church, we were nice pants.  Thankfully I have found some pants that look nice, but are still soft (not stiff).

15- Give them the right nutrition.  Our neurologist was so helpful to us.  He suggested we use these vitamins (here is a full post on it).

All in all, try to be patient and help your child.  Don’t become frustrated, because as much as he wants to stop, he can’t.  It is a habit and it makes him feel better.♥

Another post you might like:
10 speech therapy ideas to do at home

Hi there!

I’m Becky, a former elementary school teacher turned certified child development therapist and blogger. I work at home with my husband and together we are raising (and partially homeschooling) our four children in the Carolinas. I love diet coke, ice cream, and spending time with my family.

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  1. Excuse me…what did you study to understand him more ? Certification of what?

    1. In our state, it is a play therapy certification. I know in PA it was called a behaviorist. It varies by state.

  2. I am a first grade teacher and I have a student who chews on his clothes all the time. He also has a very hard time sitting still and listening/following directions. He is a tiny little guy and pretty immature compared to his classmates. What suggestions do you have, that I could try in the classroom to help him? I am open to anything.

    1. I would get stress ball for him and I would buy him a chewable necklace. Those two things are going to make a huge difference.

  3. Thank you! You describe many behaviours we have been trying to understand and cope with. I

  4. This is my 8 year old daughter to a T! She chews on everything! She chews the ponytails off of her mini lalaloopsy dolls, and eats Polly Pocket clothes to bits. She eats erasers, my rubber oven mitts, rainbow loom, the shower curtain, her clothes, her nails, bandaids, rubber handled scissors, my Iphone case, the plastic remote battery cover, her lunch tupperware lids, pages from books, wooden furniture, even the beans out of her beanbag chair! She ate half the beans out of the chair before I realized. LOL!
    We tried Chewable jewelry. She ate it. I’ve just accepted it by this point. She is at the top of her class at school, and only has trouble listening at home. She gets very distracted at home. Especially with her iPad. She ate the case off that too. 🙂 There’s not much you can do I guess. Hopefully they grow out of it? Sigh.

  5. This was 100% my brother when we were growing up – no stickers (we had to put name tag stickers on his back when he wasn’t paying attention) no tags, no embroidered logos, nothing like that. He lived in sweatpants and tee shirts (but no pockets!) and went through phases of always having to have the EXACT same slip on shoes as he grew. My mom started buying the “right” shoes in several sizes in case they got discontinued. He also had sensory things like disliking loud environments and he carried around a can of tennis balls or a favorite plastic spoon for weeks, everywhere he went. This was the 90s, before there was a word for this, and we all just went with it. I remember being a bit embarrassed by the plastic spoon thing when he came to my school events, but otherwise we all just lived with his quirks and made sure he had comfortable clothes, I don’t remember any doctor trying to diagnose him or my parents trying to “fix” it. We knew the holding special objects thing was comforting to him, so it was just what we did. He did eventually grow out of it, gradually. By middle school he could handle button-down shirts for band concerts, etc, and he even wore a suit to my wedding. But his daily “uniform” is still very consistent – same jeans, same shirts, same boots, til they are literally falling apart. He’s now a PhD candidate, and will be a professor, so it hasn’t held him back at all!

    1. Oh thanks for sharing, Cate!!! What a great ending to that story & such hope for the moms (like me) in the moment…

  6. Wonderful article! Can you please share the brand of socks with no seams? I have looked high and low for my son! Thank you!

  7. My daughter has suffered with anxiety so I applaud your effort to understand your son and find solutions. Any advice on dealing with other parents? I feel like they are offended when my daughter doesn’t want to do things their children find normal like sleepovers. I often feel embarrassed and then hate myself for feeling that way!

    1. Amazed to find out that my son is not the only one that does this.. After 12 years I’ve learned to cope with his clothes (everything) bitting, his textile and dressing preferences, Only software fábrica, no tags, no stickers, he can only wear slip on shoes .. But on the bright side, my son’s extreme sensibility makes him an artist ! highly appreciative of textures, colors and shapes from a very young age… Now that we know I encourage him to explore and expand his creativity trough art classes and respect his needs for comfy clothes and bitting to let stress out. I feel relieved to know that he is not the only one who lives like this and that there is nothing wrong with him !!!

    2. Amazed to find out that my son is not the only one that does this.. After 12 years I’ve learned to cope with his clothes (everything) bitting, his textile and dressing preferences, Only soft fabrics , no tags, no stickers, he can only wear slip on shoes .. But on the bright side, my son’s extreme sensibility makes him an artist ! highly appreciative of textures, colors and shapes from a very young age… Now that we know I encourage him to explore and expand his creativity trough art classes and respect his needs for comfy clothes and bitting to let stress out. I feel relieved to know that he is not the only one who lives like this and that there is nothing wrong with him !!!

  8. Hi,
    Thank you for this information. My daughter is 40 years old and still likes to chew.
    At bedtime she has to have the blanket or comforter end stuffed in her mouth. I will look into
    the chewing tube and stress balls. She was not interested in the chewable jewelry. She has
    autism and is nonverbal.

  9. This sounds so much like my daughter who is 8, I just thought she was stubbernd for the longest time. But then one day I woke up and realized that since she was a baby she cried if the clothes weren’t comfortable. There wasn’t a holiday she did not cry for an hour about whatever I put her in, dresses can’t have elastic or tulle and while she wanted to where a princess dresses for Halloween. Every Halloween she and I would end up in tears. I felt like she was just trying to be impossible. Her socks couldn’t have thick seems, her pants need to be soft and stretchy while I now can get her into jeans for the first 6 years of her life it was impossible and still till this day she cries about something with them and we changed through five or 6 pairs a morning. Her shoes are always too tight or don’t fit or hurt her feet. She chews through all her long sleeves and is always chewing her hair, necklaces, toys, pencils , crayons and thing she mindlessly puts in her mouth not thinking about it. She is bright and out going but everything else seems to be spot on. I still find my self stressed about the clothes but I am learning and these tips surely will help thank you.

  10. hi, after reading your article I think my son could have hypertonicity. When he was 2 months old he started to throw up they thought it was reflex and they gave him medicine for that. He kept throwing up and when he was 4 months he would´t sit ,I told the doctor he doesn’t sit or do this he said every child is different. when he was 8 months the doctor said ok let´s do studies to him he is not ok. Now he had malnutrition and anemia,psychomotor retardation. We did genetic test to see if it was a syndrom and no it was not that.He stop growing and gaining weight because of the malnutrition but they thought it was a thyroid problem and no it was not. He started therapy when he was 1 year but he kept throwing up every meal. They did´t know what he had. Just in the December 2015 we knew he is allergic to milk we took it off and he started walking he had 2 and half years and he stop throwing up, but now he had diarrhea just a month ago we learn he is allergic to all the foods. He walks but with his hands bend, he is always is bitting the toys or his shirt or licking his hands he does´t talk. When he is afraid he just freezes too and he is always scared of trying something new. He does´t learn like the rest of the kids sometimes I think he has cerebral palsy. I don´t know, it took him a lot of therapy so he could sit and crawl,stand and walk. They have done a lot of test and they just say that the malnutrition affect him. He has anemia since he was 8 months he is now 3 years and 4 months and he still has anemia. he is small he looks like a one year and half. What can I do to help him more? will the allergies to the food go away?

    1. I think you would find a LOT of answers in our facebook group, b/c what you are talking about is what we went through, too.

  11. How much of the vitamin did your child’s doctor say to use daily? I have a 4 year old and 2 year old that could benefit from this but the daily recommended dose is for an adult right? Thank you!

  12. This described my seven year old to perfectly. We have over time just figured out what worked for her. She will only wear sneakers if they are really tight. We have struggled to find sneakers that work- she is very active and needs them for school and hiking. Do you have any suggestions on brands to try? She needs a lot of sensory in put. We had her on a gum contract at school but she asked us not to do it this year- I think she does not want to stand out. Her teachers never seem to notice how much she needs to move – I think she spends most of her energy at school trying to blend in. At home we have built monkey bars and a swing indoors because she just needs it. We have never pursued services at school because so far it is not impacting her learning. Any books suggestions for parents?

  13. Thank u Becky! Our awesome 11 yr. Old grandson Jake chews his short, and plastuc water bottles, he plays soccer, flag football, he tried baseball quit his second year even though he did well it was not enough action and to much standing around. Jake also qalks on his toes alot from the beginng, he had surgery for it but 5 years later still does it. He is a great loving boy, he loves being on a team, your column will help us understand him better. He loves going to church and msking friends and does very well in school. Thanks again!