As parents, we all want to ensure that our children are healthy and safe. However, sometimes our children may exhibit strange behaviors that can be concerning, such as eating non-food items like crayons or dirt. This condition is called pica, and it affects both children and adults. In this article, we will explore the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for pica in children.

What is Pica?

Pica is a condition characterized by the persistent eating of non-food items for a period of at least one month. These non-food items can include a wide variety of items such as dirt, chalk, crayons, paint chips, and even ice. Pica is most commonly seen in children under the age of six, but can also affect older children and adults.

Causes of Pica

The exact cause of pica is unknown, but there are several theories that have been proposed. One theory suggests that pica is caused by a mineral deficiency, such as anemia caused by iron deficiency. Children who eat dirt may be doing so because it contains iron.

Another theory suggests that pica is a coping mechanism for children who have experienced trauma or abuse. Children who have been through a traumatic event may turn to non-food items as a way to cope with their emotions.

Symptoms of Pica

The symptoms of pica can vary depending on the type of non-food item that the child is consuming. Common symptoms include abdominal pain, constipation, and diarrhea. In some cases, children may also experience behavioral problems or developmental delays.

Treatment of Pica

Treatment for pica will depend on the underlying cause of the condition. If the child has a mineral deficiency, the treatment will focus on addressing the deficiency. This can include taking iron supplements or other vitamins and minerals as prescribed by a healthcare professional.

If the child’s pica is related to a psychological issue, such as trauma or abuse, the treatment will focus on addressing the underlying issue. This may include therapy or counseling to help the child cope with their emotions and develop healthy coping mechanisms.

Prevention of Pica

Preventing pica can be challenging, but there are steps that parents can take to reduce the risk of their child developing the condition. These steps include:

  • Keeping non-food items out of reach: Make sure that your child does not have access to items such as crayons, chalk, or paint chips.
  • Teaching children about healthy eating: Encourage your child to eat a healthy diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods.
  • Being vigilant: Pay attention to your child’s behavior and watch for any signs of pica.


Pica is a condition that affects both children and adults, and is characterized by the persistent eating of non-food items. The exact cause of pica is unknown, but it is believed to be related to mineral deficiencies or psychological issues such as trauma or abuse. Treatment for pica will depend on the underlying cause, and may include addressing mineral deficiencies or providing therapy or counseling. Parents can take steps to prevent pica by keeping non-food items out of reach, teaching children about healthy eating, and being vigilant about their child’s behavior. If you suspect that your child has pica, it is important to speak with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.