When kids have a habit of licking their fingers, it is not only unsanitary but also gross! If you find your little one is obsessed with putting tongue to digits, start by asking that the behavior stop. It may also be helpful to explain why licking one's hands is a bad idea. "It is yucky and you don't want to get sick!" However, if a quick chat with your charge doesn't do the trick, you may have to resort to more drastic measures.
Some children have no idea how much they are licking their fingers. As noted in the KidsHealth.org article "Your Child's Habits," often a child is unaware of a bad habit. When you notice your little one doing it, say "You are licking your fingers again, honey. Please stop." It may be frustrating to repeat this phrase over and over again, but remind yourself that helping your child end a worrisome behavior is worth the effort.
Get to the Root
You may also notice that kiddos tend to lick their fingers in certain situations. Are they nervous about starting a new school? Perhaps their tongues find their fingers as they struggle to cope with something. Or, as the KidsHealth.org article suggests, the nexus may be boredom. Try to link the habit with the situation and deal with the root of the issue. Of course, keep in mind there are times when finger licking is truly innocent and may be unavoidable, no matter how irksome. Say you take your tots out for ice cream -- can you blame them for wanting to enjoy every last taste?
Getting children to stop licking their fingers may be as simple as offering an alternative to this method of "cleaning." Carry moist, sanitary wipes with you so you can jump in at the park post-snack and put the kibosh on the saliva spreading. Establish a hand-washing routine with your wee one, which the KidsHealth.org article "Why Is Hand Washing So Important?" notes is the best way to stop germs in their tracks. Try following up a good scrub with hand lotion. Perhaps the taste of the moisturizing agent will also act as a deterrent to licking.
You are out to dinner and your child licks fingers at the table. Gently point out that a napkin is available too. A little later during the meal, the child reaches for the napkin instead of licking. A 2013 HealthyChildren.org article recommends rewarding this choice with positive words. "Thanks for going with the napkin, honey. Well done." Over time your tyke will gravitate towards behaviors that garner praise.
Sometimes the best way to get your child to stop doing something you don't like is to ignore the behavior. As HealthyChildren.org points out, a kid sometimes uses an irritating habit as a way of getting attention. If you are constantly calling your kiddo out for finger licking, you may be inadvertently encouraging it. Try tuning out the behavior; you may find that it fades away!
Melissa Willets has been writing about parenting, pregnancy and "all things mom" since 2009. She has contributed to many websites, including Pampers.com and WhatToExpect.com.