Distract your toddler from face picking by playing games together.

How to Stop Toddlers From Picking at Their Faces

by Chelsea Fitzgerald

When your toddler picks at her face, it detracts from her beauty and prevents the world from seeing that she truly is the most gorgeous child in the universe! Children often pick at their faces because they cannot express their emotions and thoughts well. Physical problems, like eczema and skin irritations may also cause this annoying habit. Remedying this problem requires positive reinforcement from the parent and effective communication.

1 Observe your child at playtime and while she is relaxing. Notate when she is most likely to pick her face. It is often due to boredom. Provide her something to do with her hands, like stringing large beads on a piece of twine if you see her picking her face during a sedentary activity, like watching TV. Another type of distraction is coloring or working a wooden puzzle.

2 Look at your child’s skin to determine if an irritation is the cause. Some of the early signs of eczema, psoriasis or other skin problems are dry, red, scaly patches or small bumps on the face or other parts of the body. Schedule an appointment with your pediatrician if you spot these kinds of problems.

3 Talk to the child about why it is important not to pick at his face. Show him an old scar on your body that is from a childhood injury. Explain that a small “boo boo” may quickly escalate into one that leaves a scar on his handsome face if he doesn't stop picking it. Tell him that picking at a sore also may cause an infection that will hurt a lot.

4 Set a timer for a short block of time such as a half hour. Challenge your toddler to restrain from picking at his face during the time. Distract him by playing a game together, reading a book to him or some other pastime that he enjoys. Once the timer dings, praise him richly for the good job. Extend the time during the next challenge.

5 Reward the child when she restrains from picking her face. Small prizes, such as stickers, a gummy or an extra story at bedtime help motivate the child to stop this bad habit. Trips to the zoo, a nearby beach or another favorite outing are appropriate rewards when she restrains from the habit for two or three days or longer.

Items you will need

  • Large beads
  • Twine
  • Crayons and coloring book
  • Wooden puzzle
  • Timer
  • Games
  • Book
  • Small rewards, like stickers or chewing gum

Tip

  • If the face picking occurs during times of stress, such as when a friend is playing roughly with her favorite toy or older siblings are teasing her, work on solving the problem. Teach her appropriate words to use to express her displeasure or instruct her to come tell you that something is upsetting her.

About the Author

Chelsea Fitzgerald covers topics related to family, health, green living and travel. Before her writing career, she worked in the medical field for 21 years. Fitzgerald studied education at the University of Arkansas and University of Memphis.

Photo Credits

  • Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images