We finally managed to get rid of our daughter’s pacifier! However, We’ve noticed that she is sucking on her thumb and fingers now. How can we help her?
This is a common predicament. The most important thing is to anticipate when your daughter will suck her fingers and why she will do so. Is she hungry? Bored? Tired? All three?
If she is hungry, try giving her hard, crunchy or chewy foods (e.g., vegetables cut into strips, raisins, pretzels). Encourage her to chew the food “on the side” (on the molars) to give input to her temporomandibular joint (TMJ). The TMJ was soothed by the pacifier, now we need to provide a substitution. Gum chewing, when the jaw stays in alignment, can effectively provide this input as well.
If your daughter is tired, but it’s not an appropriate time to nap, turn on the music and encourage jumping jacks, toe touches, rolling on the floor, playing catch / rollie pollie, stretching, yoga, dancing, etc. The worst thing to do is to plop her in front of the television, which would probably encourage the thumbsucking.
If she’s bored, try to have art activities like these on hand – they will keep little fingers busy (please note that these suggestions contain small parts and should be used with caution / supervision only):
- Lite Brite
- Small Pop beads
- Magnetic Sets
- Wikki Stix
- Stringing beads or dried pasta – make a noodle necklace!
- Legos, Duplos, Quatros
- Practicing fasteners (buttons, snaps, buckles, zippers)
- Playing with playdoh, silly putty
- Gluing dry rice or macaroni – make a collage
- Cutting – make sure her thumb stays facing upwards
- Hole punchers
- Lacing cards
- Finger painting
There are also specific oral-sensory-motor exercises that a speech therapist like myself can recommend based on your child’s needs. These activities may include massage, vibration and resistance exercises.
I work with children in their NYC (Upper East Side) homes and can be contacted at 646-295-4473 or firstname.lastname@example.org.