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Here at Together Families, we connect Early Childhood Educators, Teachers and Parents. We encourage the sharing of ideas, knowledge and experiences to help build stronger and healthier children and families.

End Thumb Sucking Today!

Many young children suck their thumbs as a way to soothe and comfort themselves. Long term thumb-sucking may lead to problems with teeth, speech and language, and is often a hard habit to break. Here are some tips to help young children stop thumb-sucking as soon as possible.

Identify the times when the child is more likely to suck their thumb. Is it when he is tired, nervous or scared? If you can identify these times, you may be able to anticipate and then intervene before they have a chance to pop their thumb in their mouth. Offer an alternative for the child to self-soothe such as a blanket, a hand to hold or a special toy or stuffed animal during these times.

Talk to your child openly about how they need to try to stop thumb-sucking. Give them gentle reminders when you see them sucking their thumbs as the behavior might be subconscious. Perhaps develop a code word or phrase that you can say to notify the child such as, “thumbs up”. The child could then respond by taking their thumb out of their mouth with a “thumbs up” action.

Keep little thumbs busy and keep the child distracted. When children are bored or tired, their thumb is more likely to end up in their mouth. Keep their hands occupied with activities such as reading a book which requires two hands.

Stay positive. If a parent or educator scolds, shames or has a negative attitude toward the thumb-sucking it may cause more anxiety in the child. Be sure to notify your childcare providers of your decision to stay positive.

Pick a good time to wean. If a child is stressed, anxious or tired it may not be a good time. Remember that your child will most likely outgrow this habit eventually. Not many older children or adults walk around sucking their thumbs. However, the earlier you can help kick the habit, the better.

Naomi Pelss is a Registered Early Childhood Educator and manager of a child care centre. She has a degree in Child Studies and has been in the child care field for almost twenty years. Her other full time job is parenting four children and keeping up with her personal blog at www.morewithfourblog.com

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