My 2 1/2 year old son eats dirt and potting soil. Could there be something wrong with his diet?

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My two and a half-year-old son eats dirt and potting soil from my houseplant. He also sucks on rocks, but he spits them out when he’s done. How can I get him to stop? Every time he’s out of my sight, he gets into something. I’ve told him to stop and he has been spanked for eating dirt. He knows it’s wrong and tries to sneak. Could there be something wrong with his diet?

Your son’s eating of dirt and rocks are unusual. He could have pica, which is the eating of any non-food material. People with iron or zinc deficiencies often have pica. Its cause is not understood.

One of the first reports describing pica was about pregnant African American women in the South who ate red clay and laundry starch. It was discovered that they were iron deficient. Substantial doses of supplemental iron cured their iron deficiency and they stopped eating clay and starch.

The danger from possible eating soil and rocks is a serious one. Get your son to his doctor for a thorough physical immediately. His habit may be difficult to break even after solving any nutritional deficiencies and will require careful supervision.