It's normal for 11-month-olds to put things in their mouths, right?

I know this is a strange question, because I always thought the oral stage lasts from birth to 2 years, or at least 18 months for most kids. But in the past couple of weeks, not one but two therapists of Andrew's (hearing specialist and PT) have brought little tiny things to the house for him to explore/play with, and he promptly put them in his mouth. Both seemed surprised he wasn't over this... (he is 11.5 months adjusted/15.5 months actual on the nose). But isn't it perfectly normal for a baby this age to be putting things in his mouth still? I seem to remember relatives stopping this at maybe 18 months, but I also know 2-year-olds who still do this...isn't that why they put 3 and up on toys with small parts? I guess I just want to make sure Andrew is OK here...I think he is, and if it was just the one person who thought he was beyond this I'd probably think nothing of it, but now it's two that have seemed surprised he wasn't. I will say the speech therapist said, in between these two incidents, that of course he couldn't handle 1/2 inch cubes. LOL. But then the whole thing happened again with another therapist so it's got me this something to be concerned about or are my instincts right? When did your children stop putting tiny, non-food items in their mouths?

Report post

11 replies. Join the discussion

I'm surprised at the speech therapist! If you ever get your hands on one of the OT catalogs - they have chew toys! Just like for puppies, only not for teething. They are for oral/sensory work.

Ben never needed the real chew toys. He had trouble with keeping spit in his mouth for a while, so a therapist at school worked with a tootsie roll sucker somehow.

I can distinctly remember Ben being at least 3 and having to tell him "no eat" whenever he came across something new. I always thought it was like my goats. They don't truly eat everything. They are really fairly picky. What they do that leads to the idea they eat everything is explore the world with their mouths. Anything new needs to be checked to see if it is edible.

So I always thought Ben was just exploring the world, learning his own way. I just had to watch what it was he was exploring!

I don't think Andrew is behind, just being himself.

Report post

I don't think it's anything to worry about. I have a 34 weeker who is 11 months old (actual) and has hit every milestone on schedule. She puts EVERYTHING into her mouth. I think it's just another way for them to explore a new object. ;)Sounds like Andrew is doing just fine, I wouldn't be concerned with it. I think it's 100% normal for babies to put everything in their mouth at this age!

Report post

At Andrew's age, I would expect to see the habit slowing down, but I would not be concerned that he still does it. I can't seem to remember when my preemie stopped putting non food things in her mouth, but I know my FT son earned his first trip to the ER at 3 because he ate a metal ball (size of a marble) from DD's magnet set.

Report post

My girls are 2 1/2 and still do this. Definitely a preemie / sensory thing when they do it for so long, but not really a big deal. Some moms in our playgroup comment on it, and I'm like, well I tell them no all the time, and they still do it. I offer them other sensory stimulation and sour foods, per the OT, etc., to get them to stop, but they still do it. I guess if they're 12 and still doing it I'll worry :) totally normal for you son's range!!!!

Report post

Well, if it isn't normal, why do we vacuum the carpet and clean the floors obsessively when our children start crawling? My little guy is a year (9 months adjusted) and just this morning, I pulled a dead fly out of his mouth. (Apparently, I was not obsessive enough about the cleaning. No idea where he found it but just glad it was an outdoor fly and not a house fly.) Yes, this is the oral stage so just have some antibacterial wipes handy and let 'em at it!

Report post

My three year old never, ever puts things in her mouth to explore but my son put everything in- rocks, dog food, soap. He is still a very oral kid and we have to constantly touch his shoulder to remind him "hands down". He chews his pencils at school and likes to run the zipper of his jacket across his lips. (He would die if he knew I told anyone) Lol! When he's deep in thought he also tends to run his eraser across his lips like a little professor saying "hmmmn". He's just one of those kids that needs strong input around his mouth and the older he gets the more he's able to reign it in. No big deal.

Our OT said it's normal for kids up to age 3 to cram everything in their mouths so I wouldn't worry!

Report post

See this is my biggest fear, having people instill yet even more fear in me when i finally bring my boo boo home.......Thank god I have my daughter to at least somewhat compare a little bit to. And yes, completely and utterly normal. There is a reason why most toys with small parts will say "for ages 3 and up" because that is within the normal range for kids to as Avamom says"cram everything in the mouths". Thurston's ot at the nicu was worried because he was not putting his hands together to soothe himself at the ripe old age of 1 week adjusted(I looked it up and the range is up to 4 months old). Dont we have enough to worry about(by the way he can clasp his hands now at the ripe old age of 7 weeks adjusted.......

Report post

Wouldn't worry at all. Some kids are more oral than others. Some never put anything in, others lots. I have a 21 yr. old preemie who still puts stuff in her mouth. She's always chewing on paper clips. As long as they don't swallow things this would then be a concern. I am surprised to see lots of moms allow tiny toys or toys with sections for many under 3 for this reason. Sometimes the child will have something in the mouth and by accident they swallowed it due to falling etc.

Report post

My twins are 25 months, and both still put tons of things in their mouths. Alec will tell me EEEWWW! and take it back out, but I have to fight Aeva sometimes to get whatever it is out! I have noticed that it is slowing down with both of them, I still don't let them play with tiny objects, but we can colour most days and I'm not hopping back and forth between them prying gooey wax out of their mouths! lol When they were Andrew's age, Alec would put his mouth on the fridge door for a minute or so... food through osmosis?! IDK, but it was funny! lol Totally normal, I hate when others put fears into heads that are already chalk full! lol

Report post

I do not think there is anything to worry about. It is a normal exploratory sensory experience for children up to and past two. It is a concern when they cannot control it and use it for LOTS of self stimulation and constant sensory input because it because the primary sensory tool. My twins (27 weekers, who are now a month shy of 3 yrs) have sensory issues. My smallest still puts almost everything into her mouth. Our Nuero dr. said NOT to stop this behavior, but replace the sensory items with the OT/ST chew toys and food items. If we deprive her of this experience it delays her intergration experience. Also, it really really causes her to have bad behaviors, poor coping, and she gets really frustrated. She is slowly learning to integrate, but it is taking time. What is funny, is we want our children to be safe, but it is a normal developmental tool in them to explore orally. Instead, we are constantly wanting to stop them. I say monitor the behavior and take a medium approach, just like you would any child, dangerous things NOT in mouth, other exploratory items ok. My full term son, who is 13 months will still explore orally off and on. That is ok. Except for the bird poop the other day. lol. Also a funny thought, research shows that children in school do better on tests when they chew gum or something similar, so by nature, we are always in our lives finding stimulus orally to different degrees in each person according to their sensory needs. I would not worry about it!

Report post

Thanks, everyone! This makes me feel better. I thought it was normal and expected, glad to see it still is at this age. I definitely need to keep him safe...i.e. I caught him trying to put a battery in his mouth from a toy his ST had brought that lost it's back casing. I have found him with a little plastic thingy in his mouth that I have no idea where it's from, and a leaf from our ficus plant too. And of course there's the cat food...and something she coughed up he was going after...YUCK!!

Oh, Leapingly, the dead fly...I am waiting for that to happen here! ITA, ShellyNel, in not trying to stop the behavior...totally. He is exploring this way. ANd he's also teething bigtime...his lower one-year molars must be on their way. Plus, he isn't automatically putting everything in his mouth anymore he will sit and leaf through board books on his own without trying to munch on them anymore...except maybe at the end when he closes the book. So I figure that's a good sign that I guess it is dying down a little. But give him anything tiny, and it's straight in his mouth. And anything larger that's a good chew toy is there pretty fast and getting chomped on hard of late too.

Mygirlsmom, LOL at the 12 reference...hopefully they'll all be done with that soon. But I saw this show on TLC, I think, about kids swallowing things, and there have been 8-year-olds and even older swallowing all kinds of things--batteries, a pen flashight, you name it. One girl was 11 or 12 and accidentally swallowed a pen because she was chewing on it while doing her homework. So I guess it can still be going on at that age too!!

Again, everyone, thanks for the good advice!!

Report post

This discussion is closed to replies. We close all discussions after 90 days.

If there's something you'd like to discuss, click below to start a new discussion.

Things you can do

Discussion topics

Preemie links and resources

Narratives from the NICU -- Read the special report

Community leaders