Sugar Aunts: Tips to Help Kids Learn How to Blow Their Nose

Tips to Help Kids Learn How to Blow Their Nose

This time of year, kids get sick.  Some times it seems like there are more visits to the pediatrician's office than there is to the grocery store.  With children back into the routine of school, there are more opportunities for kids to come into contact with germs from friends and teachers.  As parents, one thing we know a lot about is runny noses.  When our babies are born, it is usually not long before a runny nose has us and the sweet little baby up at night with the stuffy, congested breathing.  When kids start to progress in their self care, they can start to become more independent with the task of blowing their own nose.  

Today, I'm sharing tips and tricks to help kids learn how to blow their own nose and to develop their ability to perform this portion of personal hygiene and functional skill ability.

Teaching kids to blow their own nose can be tricky.  Children who are typically developing find blowing their own nose to be difficult and children with special needs may have an especially troubling time with independent nose blowing.

There are important parts of the development of the child to consider when it comes to nose blowing.  Knowing what a child typically should be able to do in this personal care task can help parents determine if teaching nose blowing is feasible at different ages.  Other kids with sensory, fine motor, cognitive, or other struggles will fit into this developmental breakdown differently.  You can read more on these areas concerns below.

Tips to teach kids how to blow their own nose. This is great for typically developing kids and special needs kids.

Developmental Progression of Nose Blowing in Kids


These are typical age ranges for the breakdown of skills needed for independence in nose care.
Age 1 -  The child allows his or her nose to be wiped.
Age 1.5- Attempts to wipe nose without actually completing the task
Age 2- Wipes nose when asked
Age 2.5-3.5- Wipes nose without request
Age 2.5-3.5- Blows nose with request


It's important to note that kids don't always follow these developmental milestones and that every child is different.  They typically developing child may not blow his or her own nose until age 5.  Just like any skill that a child completes, there are various ranges of development.  In this post, you will find tricks and tips to help kids develop this skill.

For the child with special needs, independent nose blowing may develop more slowly as a result of concerns in other areas.  


Fine Motor Skills needed for independence with nose blowing:

When blowing one's own nose, there are fine motor components that are necessary.  Eye-hand coordination, bringing the hands to midline, vision-obstructed motor control, pincer grasp, and pinch grip strength are necessary for managing a tissue. To address these needs, try building the skills needed for each area.


Sensory Considerations in Nose Blowing:

For a child, the process of blowing his or her own nose can be quite distressing.  Children with olfactory sensitivities may breathe primarily through their mouth, making the act of nose blowing difficult.  A sensitivity to scents can cause an overreaction to the tissue that needs to be held near the nose.  To accommodate for these sensitivities, try using unscented tissues.  Attempting the nose-breathing activities listed below can help.


Cognitive Considerations in Nose Blowing:

For young children, the process of completing each step of nose blowing can be a difficult process. Children need to maintain lip closure while breathing through their nose, one nostril at a time.  This multi-process task can be difficult for older children who demonstrate difficulty with cognition.  To address these problem areas, try using a social story for the steps of nose blowing.  A social story can also help children identify the appropriate time for attempting to blow their nose.


Oral Motor Needs for Nose Blowing:

In order to blow the nose, a child needs to maintain lip closure.  This can be a very difficult task for children who exhibit oral motor problems.  To address these difficulties, try oral motor exercises for lip closure.

How to teach kids to blow their nose


Strategies for helping kids learn to blow their own nose: 


1. First practice with the mouth.  Teach kids bring a tissue to their nose and practice blowing air out of their mouth.  In this way, kids understand that blowing out air can move the tissue.  They can then progress to closing their mouth and blowing air out through their nose. 

2. Teach when not sick. This is an important factor in teaching kids to blow their nose.  Parents typically do not consider nose blowing until there is congestion that interferes with breathing.  When kids are trying to learn to blow their nose and they are dealing with a runny or blocked nose, it can be overwhelming and frustrating for kids to breathe while holding their mouth shut.  Try practicing nose blowing when the child is feeling well.

3. Blow water- Teach kids that they can use their nose to blow air through one or both nostrils at a time in order to blow ripples across the surface of water.  Ask them to practice pinching their nose. 

4. Blow a tissue ball- Tear a small piece of facial tissue and crumble it into a very small ball. Place it on the table surface and ask your child to blow the tissue on the table using their nose.

5. Blow on a mirror to see the fog.  Ask your child to pinch one nostril closed and to blow air through their nose onto a mirror.

6. Teach the child about the spread of germs.  Try this children's book and craft to get started.
Tips from an Occupational Therapist to teach kids how to blow their nose.


This post is part of the Functional Skills for Kids series where we are joining other Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy bloggers in a monthly series on the functional skills that make up childhood development. Check out all of this month's posts on personal care: 










Adolescent Hygiene Challenges  | Therapy Fun Zone

3 comments :

  1. Excellent suggestions especially about trying to teach the children when they are NOT sick. Never thought of that before but it makes perfect sense!

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  2. I remember my mom showing my daughter how to blow her nose when she was around 2 because she was sick. Thankfully she picked up on it pretty easy and will bring me tissues now to help her blow (at age 4). These are great suggestions for kids who may be struggling or those who just need some extra fun practice!

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  3. This is a fabulous post, Colleen! Thanks for sharing the timeline of nose blowing milestones, and thanks also for your tips. I've really never had to teach kids to blow their nose, so I have absolutely no idea where to start! I know I will be referencing this post when the time comes!

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