20 Strange Habits That Kids Have (Explained By Scientists)

Parenting is a never-ending job. No, it's not a paid gig. Parents rarely get a joyful "thank you" at the end of the night. And they sure aren't appreciated for all the things they do for their families around the clock (not until kids are old enough to realize, that is). Parenting during the younger years is also no easy feat.

When our kids are young, their minds are like sponges. They're observing us like hawks, and they're doing the same thing to their fellow students in their daycare class. It's amazing really, how badly they want to explore and try new things. However, there comes a point in many parents lives where they need to ask themselves a question: are these new-found obsessions habits, tics, or a twitch?

Children are all very similar in the way they choose these habits: they're simply finding ways to soothe themselves, while also exploring new things. Many kids can be found walking down the street sucking their thumb or picking their nose and not-so-subtly eating it. As a parent, most of us are thinking they're just intrigued; they're self-discovering. But many professionals have found a deeper reason to these sometimes strange habits.

20 Chewing On Different Objects

Chewing, tasting, and drinking things are all subtly different when it comes to a child's habit (as you'll see below). You may see an older child chewing on their shirt or maybe nibbling on the tops of their pencils, but why? There's no way their shirt collar tastes yummy, and I highly doubt that their pen has a nice aftertaste. According to Debra C. Lowsky, MS, CCC-SLP, from Ask the Therputic, she explains this habit. It's normal for toddlers to taste everything, but when an older child (who is educated to know what should and shouldn't go in their mouth) does it, it can be worrisome.

Ms. Lowsky explains children tend to do this out anxiety or as a "calming mechanism." She says, "Chewing provides proprioceptive input to the jaw that is very calming and organizing."

19 Repeating Everything You Say

Did you know there's a scientific term for why kids copy everything we say? Echolalia is literally defined as a child repeating or imitating everything an adult says. This doesn't necessarily mean walking and acting like mom, but it can also be in the form of repeating a word their parent says in a sentence. For example, if a parent asks their kid if they want a piece of pizza, instead of saying yes, they may say "Pizza." This could be because they're learning new words or because they're trying to be like those around them. Regardless, it's a habit that seems to leave the building around 3 years old.

18 Wanting To Taste EVERYTHING

Similarly to chewing on things as a form of anxiety, children also want to taste everything... Including things that a child should NEVER taste (dog feces, anyone?). Well, for starters, babies tend to do this because they're teething and are looking for comfort. It's a form of development. For younger kids, however, they seem to taste everything for a few reasons (of course): sensory processing, fine motor control, and simply having a curiosity for the world. There are some parents who are wildly concerned about their child licking a wall or trying to examine a rock with their mouth, but it appears to a technically speaking "normal" habit.

Just be aware of what they're trying to taste, sometimes this can be due to deficiency is vital nutrients.

17 ...And Curious About Drinking Things

A great example of kids drinking everything without questioning why is a personal one. My family and I went mini golfing when we were kids. My youngest brother was probably a toddler at this time. My mom turned her back away for one second, and there goes my younger brother in one of those fake ponds. He wasn't swimming... he was on his hands and knees TASTING the fake pond water. But why? Kids who do this could be pointing to the obvious—they're thirsty—but they also could be doing it because they're curious. What is this liquid that's in their hands or around their feet? As Dr. Siu-Lan Tan tells Psychology Today, it could be because they see reflections in the water. It's mystical and seems to have another universe inside. Why not try it?

This, of course, becomes problematic with toxic liquids in your home, so be sure to have locks on those cabinets!

16 Biting Their Nails

I'm aware of how gross biting one's nails is, but sometimes I do it... I admit it! I'm not the typical "girly girl." My nails are never painted and each nail has its own shape — they're not all perfectly manicured. Because of this, I tend to bite my nails a bit so they all kind of look uniform. However, this is not a habit for me. But it can be for kids. BabyCenter explains kids can do this out of boredom, imitation, a form of stress-relief... it's one of those things that are also hard to break because it's something only they can control. It can also be a form of comfort or control when they're experiencing stress, anxiety, or new circumstances.

15 Licking Their Lips

Personally, thinking about licking my lips too much is already making them chapped. However, there are many children who continuously lick their lips out of habit. "Compulsive licking can start from having simply dry lips and turn into a behavior that children feel unable to control." MamaMia explains. Likewise, those at Dr. James and Samuel Owens Pediatric Dentistry explain that kids may do this as a coping mechanism. Interestingly enough, kids may also do this if they have dental issues. As the dentists explain, "Lip sucking can also occur if your child experiences malocclusion or a severe misalignment or incorrect relation between the teeth or jaw."

If you notice your child licking or sucking on their lips more and more, head over to the dentist just to make sure all is okay.

14 Hair Twirling

Similarly to a few on this list, hair twirling is another self-soother. If you're around children frequently, you'll notice countless little girls and boys playing with their hair. Twirling small strands around their finger may seem like a sweet habit, and it kind of is, but it's also a form of distraction for a little one. In times of stress or being confused, a child may twirl their hair for comfort. However, this habit tends to be forgotten by the time a child turns five. If the habit progresses, however, to the point where they're now picking hair out their head, they could have a nervous tic that should be treated by a professional.

13 Childhood Tics

To be fair, there are a lot of habits on this list that has the possibility of becoming a tic; something that is a "sudden, repetitive, nonrhythmic motor movement or vocalization involving discrete muscle groups." Tics can also come in the form of eye twitching, throat clearing, or a head twitch. Mama Mia further explains, "Tics are repeated, uncontrolled spasm-like muscle movements, such as eye blinking, grimacing, mouth twitching, nose wrinkling or squinting." Depending on the case, tics can be hard to treat. There are some medications out there to help if a person's tics are really bad, but most tend to go away as a person matures, as NHS assures.

12 Body Rocking

Have you ever seen a little one rock their body forwards and backward or side to side? Well, this little habit is known as 'body rocking' can be done as a form of self-soothing. "When a kid this age is stressed, tired, or bored, she may comfort herself by moving her body repetitively," Parents explains. Think of body rocking as a way of unwinding. However, this can be dangerous when a child begins rocking against a wall, people, or their own crib. "While watching these actions can be [alarming], very few children hurt themselves this way, and they usually outgrow the habit by around age 3." Parents reaffirms.

11 Rituals

Cute habits that turn into self-sabotaging rituals are no longer cute. As human beings, we admire consistency. Most people aren't fans of change, which is why some turn to rituals to avoid something new. "It’s natural for your 1- or 2-year-old to demand that you stick to a particular routine, and for one tiny deviation to cause a major meltdown," Parents notes.

These routines can be something as small as organizing their toys in a particular way or doing the same thing before going to bed each night. These small rituals aren't really a cause of concern unless they begin to take over a person's life.

The website explains that if your child can't leave the house or go to bed without performing a ritual, there could be a problem brewing. This is multiplied when kids stop communicating with the outside world because they're too enthralled with their own routines.

10 Hands Down There...

I don't know about the men in your life, but most of my ex-boyfriends (and even my husband) all slept with one hand down their pants. They're not even holding on to anything down there — it's just there for comfort! I, for one, don't understand this. It perplexes me everytime I see him fall asleep. But this could have been a habit that's followed him throughout life.

TheBump says, that this behavior "is another habit that isn’t considered a problem unless your child chooses to do it over playing with the kid next door or eating ice cream." As a parent, guidelines need to be given to ensure public outbursts doesn't arrive at your front door.

9 Imaginary Friends

I've never met a person who didn't have an imaginary friend growing up. It doesn't matter if they were a person, alien, or animal — we seemed to always have someone to talk to (although they weren't physically there).

TheBump notes that children create these invisible friends as a way to feel "comfortable"; to feel invincible. It's a safe space for them. "When you embrace your child’s imaginary world, you honor her creativity. When a furry friend gets lost or needs to be washed or sewn, it might be rough, but it’s an opportunity to show her how she can cope without her usual comforts."

8 Thumb Sucking

I sucked my thumb for way longer than I should have. I remember my mom getting me to stop in my toddler years, but somewhere down the line, I started doing it again as a form of relaxation. I think it was one of those things that helped me fall asleep and made me realize everything was okay — there were no monsters under my bed. From a scientific standpoint, children suck their thumb because they have a "natural rooting and sucking reflexes," according to the Mayo Clinic. There are some babies who even suck their thumb while in the womb (as seen in some ultrasounds)!

As the Mayo Clinic states, children tend to wean themselves away from thumb sucking around 2- to 4 years old. If not, then the peer pressure to stop from kids their classrooms will naturally break the habit.

7 Not Wanting To Wipe

When a child is potty-trained they typically know why they're doing it. Going to the washroom in the 'big boy' or 'big girl' way is a form of them being an "adult." Most kids want to be the cool, older kid. They don't want to be caught in diapers if it's not what the 'big kids' do. So when they're potty-trained and get lazy with wiping... this can leave a question mark for parents. You taught them how to wipe and why we wipe, so why are they not doing it anymore? What changed? Well, Parents explains this could be because of a child's motor skills. Even when they're older than 4- or 5 years old, they may forget from time to time that wiping is necessary for hygiene, and they'll feel more comfortable if they do it correctly.

6 Eating Their Own Boogers

Booger picking is gross. You never know what's going to come out of there, and a majority of people don't wash their hands after everytime they do a little digging. Furthermore, sometimes kids end up eating the boogers they just went digging for. You may gag on the inside, but Children's MD says that a child eating their own boogers can actually be food for them (although it's a gross habit). "Various scientists have long hypothesized that eating mucus from your own nose is an effective method of strengthening the immune system," they say. And while that may be true, some kids eat their boogers straight out of curiosity. Especially different textures...

5 Picking Scabs

Picking scabs can not only lead to more scabs or scars, but it can also lead to infection. Think of how unclean our fingers and fingernails are. We touch so many germ-filled things (and people) every day, so to then start digging into your skin can cause even more problems. But why are kids doing this? Heck, even adults do this! Healthline notes that the process of picking, watching it heal, and then picking at it again, is a form of stress relief. Also known as excoriation, this habit can also become an impulse that's hard to cut, creating an obsessive-compulsive disorder condition (OCD). It takes self-grooming to the extreme.

4 Hair Eating

Eating or sucking strands of your own hair is something that a few kids pick up on. Doctors have even documented hairballs they've found inside of patients from eating too much of their own hair. MamaMia states the obvious that hair eating should be "gently discouraged" in children. This habit can lead to something more serious (trichophagy), which is when "an accumulation of retained hairs in the stomach and digestive tract"

Similarly to giving yourself a hickey or picking at a scab, it's an impulse control problem. These issues tend to go away once parents find another form of distraction (whether that's tying their hair in a ponytail for a little while or finding something for them to focus on).

3 Digging For Buried Treasure

Why is nose picking even a thing? It's not even something that we leave behind as children, either. There are many adults who still pick their nose and have the curiosity to look at their finger and see what they picked. But why?

Children's MD explains the reasoning is different for everyone; some kids enjoy the taste of their own boogers, some find it as a nervous habit, or maybe it's something a little more serious. Their team of specialists urges parents to ask their kids why they pick their nose because sometimes children are doing it out of being uncomfortable. They could have an allergy, a cold, or maybe a deeper obsession with picking (as we'll learn more about below).

2 Spit Bubbles

You would think that as soon as a child learns they can create bubbles with their own spit, it would be something they couldn't stop doing! And that's the truth for some children. While this habit typically forms when a child is teething, it can continue into preschool. However, as Chicago Parent explains, creating spit bubbles is a form of development — something to encourage. One mom noted that by allowing her child to create this bubbles, it enhanced her language skills. In an effort to try and make those small bubbles, babies are making sounds and learning how to use their tongue to say different letters.

1 Hickies

No, I don't think toddlers or children in elementary school are giving other students "raspberries." Instead, they're discovering that they can give themselves hickies. According to The National Center for Biotechnology Information, a child sucking on their own arm can be because of a few reasons. "Birth rank, feeding method, and socioeconomic status" are a few reasons experts associated this habit with. But they also noted that children who breastfeed for a longer amount of time seem to form odd sucking habits, which could be the reason for the spontaneous hickey.

From a developmental standpoint, as long as the sucking doesn't affect a child's skin or dental movement, it's a habit that should fade (or something you should encourage to fade).

Resources: MayoClinicAsk the TherapeuticChildren's MD, PsychologyTodayTheNationalCenterforBiotechnologyInformationHealthline,

Dr.JamesOwens, KidsPlushPGHNHS.

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