We all remember the kid eating a glue stick in the back of the classroom.

It may feel like it’s only a matter of time before we catch our own kids sucking on a bottle of Elmer’s glue. Why do they do this? And is it harmful in any way?

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The Main Reasons Kids Eat Glue

Why Do Kids Eat Glue?

There are two main reasons children eat glue. The first is to get attention, and the second is a disorder called pica. Eating small amounts of non-toxic glue is unlikely to cause serious health problems. If your child eats super glue, contact poison control for further instructions.

Gaining Attention Through Glue Eating

Children want attention. They are hard-wired to seek attention from others. They’ll try different strategies to gain recognition from parents, siblings, teachers, and friends. If they don’t get the reaction they desire through positive methods, they may resort to some interesting tactics.

Eating glue might start with a simple curiosity. Glue smells good, and it looks like melted ice cream. If they taste the glue and receive a strong reaction, they may do it again and again to achieve similar results. A defiant child might enjoy the negativity, while an attention-seeking child might simply like being noticed.

Pica Explained

Pica is an eating disorder that causes a person to crave nonfood items. Pica can be a sign of malnutrition or anemia. Mental health problems, developmental problems, and stress may also lead to the disorder.

Pica is different from curiosity. Children are naturally curious about the world around them and often test the environment through taste. Pica involves consuming non-food items on a regular basis. It can lead to serious health problems like intestinal infections, intestinal obstructions, and lead poisoning.

My Struggles with Pica

I suffered from Pica when I was pregnant with my kids. With my oldest, I craved cigarette ashes and charcoal.

With my youngest, I craved pencil lead. I knew it was a disorder that could be harmful, so I managed to keep my cravings at bay.

Once my children were born, those cravings disappeared. A young child may not have the ability to say no in the way I did, and once the habit gets started, it’s difficult to stop.

Here are some of the nonfood items children (or adults) who have Pica may crave:

  • Paint chips
  • White Paste
  • Chalk
  • Glue
  • Super glue
  • Clay
  • Fingernails
  • Paint
  • Hair
  • Dirt
  • Rocks
  • Paper
  • Poop
  • Ice

Pro-Tip
This is one reason why young children should be monitored closely when they’re around older buildings where there could be paint chips.

Older buildings with paint from before lead paints were banned can pose serious health risks to a curious or attention-seeking child.

The Dangers of Eating Glue

Non-toxic glue will not poison your child. If your child eats a small amount of white glue, they may feel a bit of a stomach ache, but there is no need to worry.

The true concern comes from long-term glue consumption or large quantities, which can cause an obstruction in the intestinal tract.

When to Call a Doctor

It’s unlikely you’ll need to call a doctor if your child eats a small amount of regular craft glue.

You’re much more likely to need medical intervention if your child sniffs industrial-strength glue fumes…Fyi those toxic fumes are really bad! Or starts eating superglue.

Naturally, if you’re even remotely concerned about your child’s health after eating a foreign substance, you should contact Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222. They will help you understand the next steps that need to be taken, if any.

Pro-Tip

While working on this article this weekend, we actually had to call poison control after my son got into some things he shouldn’t have.

I spoke with a pharmacist who was able to guide me in what I needed to do. It was fast, easy and gave me peace of mind.

How to Get Your Kid to Stop Eating Glue

You’ll need to determine why your child is eating glue to get them to stop.

1. Give Your Child Attention

A child who’s eating glue for attention simply needs to be given attention in other ways. Praise your child for accomplishments, let them talk to you about their hopes and dreams, and give them attention even when you aren’t feeling up to it.

I promise you, there’s not one parent who enjoys listening to their child’s adventures in Minecraft, but it’s better than watching them eat paste.

2. Remove or Lock-up Glue

Another tip is to remove glue from your home or place it in an area that’s inaccessible to children. Lock up any chemicals that might be tempting while reminding children that glue is not food and therefore should not be eaten.

Child Safety Strap Locks
This is a good way to lock and child proof fridges, cabinets, drawers, ovens, closets, waste bins, etc. This strap lock is very versatile in how you can use it.

3. Change the Type of Glue You’re Using

A simple solution might be to change the type of glue your child uses. A different type of glue may have a less appealing flavor.

While I personally can’t imagine any glue being a delicious treat, there may be some reason to suspect your child actually likes the taste. Swap the white glue for glue sticks. Switch out Elmer’s glue for a different brand.

4. Get Medical Attention

A child that shows signs of pica may need medical intervention. Talk to your pediatrician about intervention techniques that may help. Your child could have an underlying health problem or might be suffering from stress.

If it’s Not Dirt, it Might Be School Glue

Kids eat glue (and dirt and many other random things) for all kinds of reasons.

It could be because they’re curious, maybe they have an underlying medical condition called Pica, or they’re just showing signs of defiance. Either way, luckily, it’s rarely harmful, and most kids outgrow the habit.

Do you have a child who eats glue? What are some techniques you have used to stop them? Share your stories in the comments!

Have You Read Any of These Yet?

Frequently Asked Questions

It’s not normal to eat glue. It could actually be a sign of a medical disorder called Pica. Pica is a disorder that causes people to eat non-food items.

School glue is non-toxic so you you’re unlikely to die from eating it a small amount of it. Excessive amounts could be problematic and may cause stomach aches and pain.

Eating small amounts is unlikely to cause major issues. Ingesting large quantities may cause stomach aches. If a large amount is consumed or if it’s anything stronger than school glue make sure to call poison control.

Swallowing large amounts may lead to stomach aches and pain and possible blockage of the GI tract. Contact poison control if you feel your child consumed a large quantity of super glue.