How to stop a child from sucking fingers

Updated February 21, 2017

Children who suck their fingers or hands may be trying to relieve stress and soothe themselves, but the habit can cause dental and speech problems if it is not stopped by the time their permanent teeth come in. Many children with this habit also get teased or criticized by their peer group, so it's worth working on before it becomes a problem.

Wait until your child is well past toddlerhood. Many toddlers suck their fingers or hands as a natural extension of the sucking needs they had in babyhood. Most children will outgrow the habit by around age four.

Begin working on the habit a little before you expect your child's permanent teeth to come in ' you may be able to deal with it before it becomes a real problem.

Consider working out a reward/praise system, using stickers and a chart or calendar.

Offer your child activities to keep his hands busy ' crayons or pencils and paper, squishy balls or toys to fiddle with, or models and puzzles to work on.

Try to keep your child talking, which will make it hard for him to keep his fingers in his mouth.

Encourage your child to stop with positive reminders that he is a "big kid" and that big kids don't need to suck their fingers.

Explain to your child in simple terms why it is important for this habit to go away, and ask him to suggest a few possible solutions. Many children will come up with some creative possibilities.

Talk to your dentist, who may have helpful suggestions and who will also be able to explain the dental consequences and options for treatment if finger-sucking continues when the permanent teeth are in.

Ask your dentist to have a talk with your child, if you think it will help.


Try putting brightly colored adhesive bandages on your child's fingertip or fingertips, as a reminder not to suck. If your child sucks his fingers at night, consider having him wear a glove or sock on his hand while he sleeps. Encourage your child to wash his hands frequently, to avoid the constant transfer of germs from his hands to his mouth.


Take a look at your child's fingers ' if they are callused or sore, he is almost certainly sucking them too much. Watch your child's swallowing and speech ' chronic finger or thumb sucking can change swallowing patterns and cause your child to thrust his tongue forward when he swallows, which in turn can lead to lisping and other speech problems. Be patient with your child ' while finger-sucking is an unattractive and unhygienic habit, many children literally can't help themselves. Take the time your child needs to eliminate the habit gently and gradually, rather than criticizing or punishing. Look for hidden stress in your child's life if he suddenly develops a sucking habit or other oral habit. Treating the stress may eliminate the problem.

Things You'll Need

  • Gloves
  • Socks
  • Stress Relief Products
  • Crayons
  • Juggling Balls
  • Rubber Balls
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