How Do I Get My Toddler to Stop Nose Picking?

How Do I Get My Toddler to Stop Nose Picking?


Kara smacks down her two-year-old son’s hand down as he picks his noses. “Stop picking your nose,” she scolds him as she helps him put his coat on. This is the third time she’s caught him doing this disgusting habit today. He doesn’t seem to care where he is or who is watching. Kara’s tired of him doing this and embarrassed when he does it in public, but he just can’t seem to stop.  

Do you ever wonder why children can be so insistent about nose picking and how to stop it?

Children’s nose picking can be gross and embarrassing for you. Although it may seem tough to get your children to stop picking their noses there are several simple solutions to break this disgusting habit.


Reasons for Nose Picking:

Nose picking is a common behavior at many child development stages. In fact, some surveys about nose picking indicate that it is almost universal, with people picking their nose an average of about four times a day. That’s adults and children alike!

Nose picking can result from a persistent tickle or dry mucus that your children can’t blow out easily. Given typical toddler development it is unlikely they have mastered effective nose blowing skills. So it’s difficult for them to resist the urge to do something that will relieve their irritation.

Sometimes, nose picking becomes an unconscious habit children use when bored or curious. It isn’t, however, usually a sign of stress or anxiety.


Things to Avoid:

  • Saying, “Don’t pick your nose”. Your toddler will still have the irritation and doesn’t know what to do to relieve it.
  • Smacking hands. You may want to get that finger out of the nose quickly as possible, but anytime you resort to physical punishment you are crossing a line that never needs to be crossed. There are always effective non-physical ways to redirect behavior or discipline effectively.
  • Putting hot pepper juice (or some other pain-inducing substance) on the finger. While this may deter the behavior, it inflicts pain and suffering. Your children will be shocked that you are willing to intentionally hurt them, which can destroy trust between you and create unnecessary resentment.

When you use any of these tactics, it draws even more attention to the issue, which can turn nose picking into intentional attention-seeking behavior. When said or done in a public, these ineffective reactions cold also embarrass your children, which can lead to resentment or revengeful behavior.


Solutions for Nose Picking:

  • Make sure your toddlers pickings go in a tissue and are not ingested. This could cause a serious infection.
  • Teach your toddlers to use a tissue or handkerchief. They can gently pick all they want if they have a tissue.
  • When children forget and you see nose picking, say “Use a tissue,” or just “Tissue!” as a quick reminder.
  • If you want children to remember on their own (toddlers might be too young for this), try putting an adhesive bandage on the picking finger. When children go to pick their noses and feel it, it will remind them to get a tissue instead.
  • If dried mucus is a persistent problem, try a sinus rinse that uses saline to wash out the place in the nose where the mucus originates.

Although nose picking is an embarrassing and gross habit, know that your children can learn to handle it appropriately.


For more tips and solutions to help your children stop embarrassing habits get a free preview of  The Parent’s Toolshop® and its unique Universal Blueprint® problem-solving system. You will be less frustrated, respond more calmly and feel more confident in any parenting situation.



Jody Johnston Pawel, LSW, CFLE is president of Parent’s Toolshop® Consulting, where she oversees an international network of Toolshop® trainers. She has 30+ years experience as a top-rated speaker and parenting expert to the media worldwide, including serving as the Co-Producer and Parenting Expert for the Emmy-nominated Ident-a-Kid television series. She is the author of the award-winning book, The Parent’s Toolshop® and countless multimedia resources that support and educate parents from diverse backgrounds and needs, and other adults who live or work with children. You can find them at her award-winning website,

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