Eating nonfood items is quite common among kids. Generally kids eat non food items during the age of 1-3 years when they are exploring the world around them and their sense of taste is the most developed one through which they try to learn new things around. Kids eat all kind of things at this age including paper. This habit of eating non food items is known as pica. The specific causes of pica are unknown so far but certain conditions can aggravate this tendency among kids. Some of the major reasons identified so far include nutritional deficiencies, emotional and mental problems, developmental problems, etc.
Some kids eat paper due to nutritional deficiencies like lack of iron and zinc. Though paper does not meet their need of these minerals but kids tend to develop taste for paper and enjoy eating it.
Interestingly, some kids begin to eat paper when they see children of their age nibbling on paper and other such non food items. Several times I found bits of paper missing from my daughter’s notebooks and one fine day I saw her tearing the pages and nibbling them. Upon interrogating, I got to know that she had learnt to nibble paper from a friend. Phew!
Some children begin to eat paper (and other things) to ease off tension and insecurity triggered by parental neglect or lack of supervision about their eating habits.
Some children develop pica when they are deprived of food, especially in underdeveloped countries where two square meals is a dream for most of the people.
When children suffer from developmental problems like schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, autism, mental retardation, etc, they begin to develop taste for non food items.
Whatever be the reason, pica is a serious health problem and should be addressed as soon as possible because it can cause deficiency of iron, anemia and lead poisoning which can prove fatal at times.