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Gentle tips for helping your little one to stop sucking their thumb!

What age do children stop sucking their thumb? | How can I get my child to stop sucking their thumb?

I’ve got a little thumb sucker, he’s 4 and although he tries his very best not to suck his thumb all of the time, he does still suck away. I’m not overly concerned at 4, but I’m aware that it’s not great for his teeth and so we’ve started to use some of my tried and tested ‘thumb busting’ techniques from over the years that have successfully helped other families.

What age do children stop sucking their thumb? 

Most children stop thumb-sucking on their own between the ages of 2 and 4, but many continue for much longer, (I know I secretly sucked my thumb until I was 10!) It’s usually peer pressure when starting school, children can be a little cruel with teasing and this can put a quick stop to sucking in the day.

Why should my child stop sucking their thumb? 

Sucking the thumb constantly can have a big effect on speech and teeth but not all thumb-sucking is equally damaging.

It’s really about the intensity of the sucking and the tongue’s thrust that deforms teeth. Little ones who rest their thumb passively in their mouth are less likely to have dental problems than children who suck aggressively.

When your child talks to you – make sure they take their thumb out. Try and get your little one into this routine from a young age by letting them know you won’t listen unless their thumb is out. You don’t have to be cross – just say ‘I can’t hear your words with your thumb there, can you say it again without your thumb?’


How can I get my child to stop sucking their thumb?

I’m not going to lie – It’s a hard habit to break, but being forceful or cross won’t help the ditching of the thumb! In fact it’ll make it worse. Most children suck their thumbs when they are tired or worried – it’s a safety blanket and reassures them and by making it a negative thing – you’ll likely create a whole new issue.

There are lots of ways to stop your little one from sucking their thumb, but none are a quick fix. With any habit – it takes time and patience.

Remind and reward: By simply reminding your child that they are sucking their thumb, then rewarding them with lots of praise when they take it out, you’ll make the more aware of what they are doing.

Make it a funny thing  – not a cross thing!  If your little one goes to put their thumb in just remind them – make it funny not sad. A simple ‘Hey quick! Get that thumb out!’ in a lighthearted way, is a perfect, gentle reminder.

No cold turkey! My little thumb sucker knows our rule of thumb (ha see what I did there?) is ‘no thumb sucking in the day’ and that he is allowed to only suck it to fall asleep.

This is fine and I’d encourage this rather than no sucking of thumbs altogether right away. going cold turkey is harsh, and to be totally honest – it will cause more stress than the thumb sucking itself! By limiting sucking to night time (most only suck for a few minutes before they fall asleep.) you’ll make it easier for your little one to ditch their thumb sucking.

Try not to worry! Your little one will give up eventually but it takes time so try not to worry. Making it a bad, sad thing can make it become an even bigger issue than it is. Don’t let your child see you are worried – this’ll make them think the whole issue is worse than it really is. Slowly slowly and gently is the key to stopping thumb sucking.

Don’t use plasters, nasty tasting ‘nail biting’ lotions or thumb guards! You are wasting your time and money if you do. Most children suck through the plasters, turn to the other thumb or fingers if they have a guard on, and just suck away the nasty tasting ‘nail biting’ lotions!

Keep thumbs busy in the day!

Thumb sucking usually happens when little ones are calm and sitting down. If they are watching a movie or having some quiet time, offer something to fiddle with such as a blanket or teddy. During other times of the day try and keep them distracted with threading activities or arts and crafts. Books are also great as they need two hands to hold and turn the pages!

What can I do about sore thumbs? 

If your child’s thumb becomes red and chapped like my little boys has, try applying a balm or cream while your little one is sleeping. An eczema cream is ideal. Warning: Don’t use anything that could cause a stomach upset! Check the label for any ‘do not ingest’ warnings. Remember on waking that little thumb will likely be popped back into their mouth!


Finally, Try not to worry. It will pass and your little one will stop sucking their thumb eventually. If you have any concerns about your childs speech due to thumb sucing consult your Health visitor or GP. If you have any concerns about your childs dental health – please consult a dentist.