How to stop your child picking their nose (and eating it!)

Posted in Behaviour and Discipline.

The first rule of snot club is that we do talk about snot club! If your child is driving you nuts with the nose pick, know that you are not alone …

“It’s a seriously gross habit”

When a parent contacted the Babyology Helpline for advice on her daughter’s nose-picking habit, other sympathetic mums and dads had plenty of helpful advice.

“My almost three-year-old girl has a terrible habit of picking her nose … and before you ask … yes, yes she has been caught eating it!” the frustrated mum began. #WeveAllBeenHere #Shudder

“We have tried everything, from gentle redirection to explaining why it’s not nice, to being stern … but nothing is working! It’s a seriously gross habit – please tell me there’s something we can do, or that she’ll grow out of it?”

“Kids who eat snot are healthier!”

Lots of parents were very familiar with this issue and keen to share their experiences. While some had success in halting their child’s enthusiasm for this practice, others thought it was part of kids’ natural development and was best overlooked.

“She’ll eventually learn to do it in private! On the upside they say kids who eat their snot are healthier,” one parent posted cheerily.

They’re kinda right. A study published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, concluded that eating snot has health benefits, including preventing cavities and infections. Who. Knew.

Snot boycott

Some parents thought the opposite though, and adopted a scaremongering approach which they said seemed to work.

“Miss 4 was doing this too and I’ve just realised is the reason we’ve been sick for about a month now as she keeps spreading germs. I told her that she was making mummy and daddy and little bro sick by spreading germs and not washing her hands and she hasn’t picked it in 2 days now. Maybe try explaining that she will make other sick if she keeps doing it.”

“My oldest did this until he was old enough for me to explain what snot is made of and that grossed him out enough that he stopped.”

Distractions and aversions

One mum said distracting your child each time she starts to nose pick can help to break this pesky habit.

“Start making her wash her hands every time you catch her doing it. My 2.5yr old has the same bad habit. I asked this same question last week in a mom group. This advice was given to me by a former educator of little kids. So far, it has worked incredibly well.”

Others thought attacking the tool used to pick could work.

“If it bothers you that much, get the nail polish that is for stopping nail biting. It tastes awful.”

#HELP! My almost 3 year old girl has a terrible habit of picking her nose… and before you ask… yes, yes she has been…

Posted by Babyology on Thursday, 12 July 2018


“It’s a phase”

All that said, plenty of experienced mums and dads said it’s best to ignore this habit altogether.

“Ignore it … sometimes when you make a fuss the problem just gets bigger,” one mum advised.

“It’s a phase. The more you react to it the more she’ll do it,” another agreed.

Is bathroom picking the solution?

The experts tell us that there’s no harm in kids picking their nose unless it becomes obsessive. While there may be health benefits to picking your nose and eating it, it’s not really socially acceptable.

If you’re not able to ignore it, one solution is to teach your child how to pick her nose in a way that’s more appropriate – such as in the bathroom. Throw in a tissue to help tidy things up and some hand-washing afterwards and it’s almost bearable – and a lot less embarrassing.

One expert thinks this “nose picking in the bathroom” strategy is the best approach, especially if the gross habit is driving you nuts.

“If needed, they gently remove any remaining offending mucus with a tissue and wash and dry hands again,” psychiatric nurse epidemiologist J Lucy Boyd told Fatherly when they investigated nose picking. “[Eventually] the child will stop doing it out of habit as it is too much trouble.”


Parent School footer dinkusNeed some support to be the best parent you can be? Our Parent School parent coaching experts can help. Click to find out more or book a one-on-one session. 


Get more babyology straight to your inbox