How Can I Stop My Child From Picking His Nose?

Real Simple answers your questions.

  • Mindy Berry Walker

Q. How do I convince my three-year-old to stop picking his nose? I swear he will have one nostril bigger than the other!
Diane Muhs
Olney, Illinois

A. Give him something else to nose around with. “If your child is constantly at it, he most likely finds the habit soothing, the same way some kids twirl their hair,” says pediatrician Ari Brown, author of Baby 411 (Windsor Peak Press, $15, amazon.com). “Kids go through a sensorimotor phase, when touching everything is how they learn,” she says. “If your child is still picking at age five or eight, it means he has gotten stuck in that phase, and the trick is to get his hands someplace else.” One option: Keep a small square of satin in his pocket or pinned to the inside bottom of his T-shirt. “Touching this throughout the day will give kids their sensory fix,” she says. Hand older kids a stress ball.

No matter your child’s age, when you catch him in the act, gently take his hand out without saying a word, give him a tissue, then have him wash his hands. Additionally, rubbing a thin layer of Vaseline in the child’s nostrils to prevent picking-induced nosebleeds can work as a deterrent, because he probably won’t want to touch the gunky stuff, says Brown.

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