Got a Chomper? This Chewelry Necklace Is a Cool Tool for Kids Who Like to Bite

Photo by She Saw Things Photography
Photo by She Saw Things Photography

By Carolyn Sweeney Hauck

Four-year-old David is sitting on the floor, relentlessly chewing on the sleeve of his shirt. A teacher comes over and squats down at his eye level. “Looks like your shirt is getting pretty wet,” she says. “Why don’t you try chewing on this instead?” She places a “chew necklace” around his neck—and lucky for him, it’s shaped like a shark. With some encouragement from his teacher, David starts gnawing on the “chewelry” necklace instead. Crisis averted!

Why Do Some Children Love to Bite and Chew?

KinderCare’s Manager of Inclusion Services Taunya Banta notes that chewing and biting is an oral sensory behavior that is most common among the infant and toddler set. “Infants and toddlers may just be teething, exploring the world through their senses, or they could be frustrated and unable to express their feelings with words,” Banta says. At a certain point, though, most children move past the toddler biting and chewing stage—usually around age two or three.

When older children still struggle with biting and chewing, there can be a variety of reasons. The child may be "sensory seeking" (like our friend David chewing on his shirt). They may need something to help them calm down or focus. They may still be learning how to express themselves with language. Or they may just prefer using their teeth instead of their words...because they know they’ll get attention immediately.

To help a child move past this behavior, it’s important for teachers and families to work together to uncover what’s motivating the behavior and work to find a fix.* “By understanding why a child is biting, at any age, we can help them get what they need without biting,” Banta says. And that, she notes, is the real goal.

Photo by She Saw Things Photography
Photo by She Saw Things Photography

How Chewelry for Kids Helps Sensory Seeking

Enter the Shark and Dolphin Chewy Necklace set, featured in our KinderCare centers. These simple rubber pendants are shaped like—you guessed it—sharks and dolphins that kids ages three and up can wear at the ready around their necks. “The great thing about these,” says Banta, “is that they’re inconspicuous. It looks just like a cool necklace for kids and gives them something they can bite and chew on when they need to.” With a breakaway clasp and no BPA/phthalates/latex, this tool can be used by teachers for kids who have a lingering need to gnaw—so they don’t use their shirt or their friends instead.

There isn’t one single way to use these necklaces—and that’s why they’re so great! They’re perfect for kids who are biting others, for kids who are constantly placing items in their mouths, or even for kids who need some help calming down. At first, our teachers have to gently direct children about how to use the necklaces—but after the kids become more familiar with them, they begin to reach for them on their own when needed. 

Some children like to wear them as necklaces, while others may prefer to keep them in their pockets at the ready. Either way, these necklaces provide kids with easy access to an object that’s safe to bite. Part of our teachers’ end-of-day routine is, naturally, cleaning up—and that includes sanitizing these necklaces so that they’re fresh and clean for little ones who need them the next day.

But while this chewelry necklace can come in handy, it may not always do the trick for toddler biting issues. If you’re the parent of an oral sensory-seeking child, you know all too well that a bite to another child can happen in a flash, or that nearly every small object on the floor could end up in the mouth. If you’ve tried a chew necklace like this shark necklace and it didn’t stop the biting, Vanderbilt University has other great recommendations right here.

Meet Taunya.

Taunya Banta started her education career in a KinderCare preschool classroom; since then, she’s never stopped evolving as an educator and as an advocate for teachers, children, and families. Today, as supervisor of KinderCare Education’s Inclusion Team, Banta is charged with ensuring our centers are places where every child and every family feels they truly belong. She holds a Masters of Arts in Teaching and believes deeply in the power of educators to have a lasting, positive impact on young children’s lives.

Read more articles from Taunya. 

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