So...You've Got a Nose Picker

Photo by Rob and Julia Campbell / Stocksy United / 166801
Photo by Rob and Julia Campbell / Stocksy United

By Cheryl Flanders

Your smartphone is ready to record your daughter’s first kindergarten program. You’re zoomed in and rolling when suddenly, your child—not someone else’s child—puts her finger in her nose and begins to dig. You frantically wave at her to “stop that,” but she is undeterred. She’s on a mission. And before you can thwart said mission, the boogie she worked so hard for is in her mouth. Mission accomplished.

So…you’ve got a nose-picker.

Before you’re completely grossed out and delete memorable footage from her kindergarten hall of fame, it may be helpful to get some quick facts on why your child picked her nose and ate the evidence.

Children around the age of five become highly aware of the goings-on in their physical bodies. When something feels “off,” they take care of it. If the tag is scratchy, the shirt comes off. If the ponytail is too tight, the hair tie is pulled out. And if a boogie is bugging them—they’ll dig it out.

And with no place to put the offending booger, it might get eaten.

A few common reasons why children might throw away social appropriateness to dig out the bothersome boogies are:

  • They have allergies that cause more activity in the nose than normal.
  • The air is very dry and things are crusty inside the nasal passages.
  • Tissues aren’t as effective as a finger when trying to unstick a boogie.

Here’s four tips for approaching your child’s socially gross nose-picking incidents:

1.       Avoid punitive responses to your child’s nose picking, as punishment is ineffective and can cause shame. As unpleasant as you might think the habit is, the best tactic is to address the cause.

2.       Talk to your pediatrician for help in addressing any allergy and congestion issues.

3.       Sometimes tissues aren’t effective in remedying the boogie problem. If that’s the case, teach your child to pick his nose in the bathroom and wash his hands afterward.

4.       If nose picking has become a nervous habit, give your child something to do that will keep her hands busy. Playdough or squishy toys are both therapeutic ways for children to use their hands during idle times like watching television.

The biggest problem with nose picking isn’t the embarrassment of your child going on a nasal dig at the kindergarten school program—it’s the contaminated fingers that could spread cold and flu viruses. Teaching your child to wash his hands after the picking can correct the germy course of this social no-no.

And although this may be the ultimate gross-out, some scientists hypothesize that picking your nose and eating the result might even be an immune booster. So laugh a little and enjoy your superstar’s kindergarten performance. Record every humorous, beautiful, nose-picking moment of it!

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