How to stop a toddler nail biting

Biting nails is a habit that can naturally occur in toddlers, simply because they have found their nails. Other reasons can be from boredom, stress or even comfort. It can be frustrating to see a toddler biting their nails, as it leaves their fingernails looking untidy. It can also leave them sore, and the area around the nail can become red and inflamed from being in the mouth so much. It can be difficult to know how to stop a toddler from continuing bad habits, as they are determined beings that don’t like to be told what they can and can’t do.

Here are some strategies to employ to stop toddlers from biting their nails:

Chewing over the reason

Nail biting is a habit that can start simply through boredom, if this is the case, there is no worry here. Just find plenty of fun engaging activities to bust the boredom, and the nail biting habit will soon fade. If, however, you believe the toddler is stressed, the cause needs to be established and addressed. Take a step back, and look into possible reasons; have there been any major changes to his or her lifestyle or daily routine, or any other reasons why your child could be stressed. Once you have helped your child overcome his or her worries, you can tackle the nail biting. Anxiety can also be a contributing factor. If your child starts to bite his or her nails in tense situations, be supportive and try to reassure your child to alleviate any anxieties.

Don’t make it an issue

In the main, biting nails is a practice that a toddler may outgrow. However, they may need a little help, and discouragement to break the habit. Toddlers are independent, and they certainly won’t stop doing something because they are told. The secret here is not to draw attention to your child biting his or her nails. Once you notice your child biting his or her nails, the best solution is to not make an issue out of it. If you draw attention to it, your child is likely to want to do it all the more. Toddlers crave attention, even if it is negative attention, so if they know that biting their nails gains attention they will do it all the more.

Break the habit early on

When you catch your child in the act of nail biting, gently push his or her hand away from the wrist and say in a soft tone: ‘Don’t bite your nails.’ Be matter-of-fact about it, and then continue to do whatever task or find something different for your child to do. Each time your child raises their hand to their mouth repeat the process. However, remain calm and be patient, as this is a process that will need to be repeated often until the habit is broken. This will reinforce the message, and be a gentle reminder. Don’t scold your child for nail biting, as this will only produce negative results. It can take a few weeks to break the habit, so remain optimistic and calm.


When a toddler bites their nails, there is generally a plausible reason for this behavior. Whatever the reason, find a distraction, and provide tasks to keep your child’s hands busy, this way he or she won’t be tempted to bite their nails. Toddlers are active beings that are always on the move and they need their minds to be stimulated, so provide plenty of different activities to keep them busy. Once you have moved your child’s hand away from their mouth, immediately distract him or her, giving something new to do. This will take the attention away from biting their nails, and move the focus onto the activity at hand.

Help to repair nails

If nail biting continues it can leave nails in a sorry state, and it can leave fingertips red and dry. If this is the case, then apply a light moisturizer into the nails, fingertips and cuticles at night to allow it to absorb whilst your child sleep, as this will give the area chance to replace lost moisture. Try to maintain nails and keep them trimmed, so there is less temptation to bite them. If the nails are in a bad state, and the area around the nail bleeds and looks unhealthy, consider consulting a doctor.

Biting nails can leave them sore and unsightly; therefore it is a habit that needs to be stopped. A little time, patience and gentle discouragement will soon put an end to this habit. If nail biting is nipped in the bud early, then it shouldn’t develop into a habit.