Parenting & Other Life Stories

Up the Nose: The lost milestone

What is it with kids and their nose? I realize that nose picking is a stage, a yucky stage, that is sometimes accompanied by eating the object that has been picked, but I’m beginning to think there is a lost mile stone involved here: nose stuffing. Nose stuffing being the act of industriously hiding objects in the nostrils, or nasal cavity. Interestingly, beyond nose picking, nose blowing is a milestone. Typically, nose blowing is accomplished by 3 years of age, if not sooner. So, where does that leave nose stuffing? Certainly, it must be a milestone because children, or at least my children, couldn’t progress from toddler to pre-school age without some experimental nose hiding!


French fries are a wonderful invention, made to be eaten! French fry packages everywhere need to come with a warning label indicating that french fries are not made to be inserted into the nose, especially not in large numbers. This warning label can be credited to my oldest son, who in the blink of an eye managed to stuff an indistinguishable number of cooked french fries into his nostril and nasal cavity! I’m not sure if his goal was to store them for later snacking, or if his finger suddenly wasn’t accomplishing the job it use to, but whatever the reason, he had his nose so crammed full of french fries he sneezed bits out for days!

For those of you who have never experienced the nose stuffing milestone, it can be a bit frightening. In this particular instance, I stared at my child dumbfounded while he stared back at me. While I watched he raised a hand up to his nose with a fry in it, I still naively thought he was a good eater, and torn between fascination and horror I watched while he bypassed his mouth and stuffed it up his nose! Clearly, it wasn’t the first one that had gone up his nose because he didn’t have a lot of room left. I sprang into action with words about not putting dinner in his nose while I pulled the visible French fry out only to watch as other bits tumbled out after it. The little guy started to get upset at this point, and began rubbing and pulling on his nose. Realizing that he had more french fry lodged up his nose, I got him to blow into a napkin which dislodged more french fry. He was still distressed, and my distress was growing wondering how many fries he had managed to sneak up there. I mean really, how many fries fit in a nose? (It sounds like a bad joke.) Another blow dislodged more fry. An explosive sneeze showered his surroundings in bits of fry. His distress eased, and his breathing was fine, but small bits of fry came out of his nose when he sneezed for days! Given these points, and knowing that the nose is important for smell (amongst many other functions), and smell is connected to memory, it’s a wonder he doesn’t have a phobia or at the very least a sneezing attack when we cook french fries!

This was when I introduced my older son to Shel Silverstein’s clever poem about the “sharp tooth snail” that lives in the nose. The poem can be found in his book called “Where the Sidewalk Ends.”


This idea worked well for keeping his fingers, and fingers with objects in them, away from his nose. My second son though is a completely different story. At the mention of the sharp tooth snail, this child pokes his finger into his nostril even further like he is trying to root the snail out!

Son number two isn’t a french fry man though. It’s breakfast time, he’s about 2 ½, and he starts saying, “ouchie, ouchie” while holding and rubbing his nose. His cheerio bowl is sitting innocently in front of him. He is getting more upset by the minute, and crying now. One would think that I would have caught on quicker to the situation, but it had been about 2 years since my other son and the french fry incident. Consequently, it was actually my other son who calmly informed me that there were cheerios in his brother’s nose. A quick blow of the nose and the problem was solved, no sneezing required. Only 2 cheerios had completed the disappearing act up the nose.

Thankfully, that has been the end of the experimental nose stuffing, but I am left with these lasting memories about my boys and their toddler noses. I am also left with a curiosity about what goes through a toddler’s mind before they start stuffing things into their nose. In addition to that, I am sure it is a lost mile stone!

By Shari Marshall – 2016