How do I stop my six year old from playing with her poop?

Hi Dr. Laura

I'm wondering, how do I stop my 6 year old girl from playing in her poop?

Thank You!

It's normal for a toddler to play in poop, because they haven't yet developed the usual disgust reaction. But it's unusual for a six year old. I have not seen research on this, but in my experience, kids who do this are usually in need of sensory input. So I would say:

1. Don't overreact. Tell yourself this won't last forever (it won't!). Say "Poop is not for playing...Let's clean this up and then you can play with your playdoh." Never punish or you will be locked in an endless power struggle about this.

2. Supervise. Don't leave your child alone at the times of day when she is likely to poop.

3. Create opportunities for the sensory input your child needs. Playdoh, daily. Finger paints, silly putty, goop, making cookies by mixing the dough by hand, making mudpies outside, giving her sensory bags and bins (see online) -- whatever you can come up with to provide sensory play for her hands.

4. One reason kids do this is that they have a lot of energy and need an outlet. So make sure that she gets daily roughhousing that gets her laughing with you, daily, but especially on those days when she seems to have a lot of energy. (If you pay attention, you can tell when those days are.) Many kids benefit from bear hugs, games where you roll over and over with them, or other full body sensory games. Other sensory-seeking kids love to be gently brushed with a brush, or other sensory activities that you can find on websites related to sensory issues. She might benefit from a trampoline, or a spinning seat like this one.

5. Some people swear that probiotics that change the gut chemistry will eliminate the child's drive to do this. I can't say, but it is certainly worth it to give your child some probiotics.

Good luck!
Dr. Laura

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