Does your child like picking paint off the wall or ripping pages out of books? In most cases, this is perfectly normal and just a stage your child will grow out of. But in the mean time, what do you do to protect your home and your belongings?

I read a few articles about why my child may be doing this kind of behavior. It can be caused by nerves (it’s soothing for some, just like sucking a thumb) and some just like to take things apart (sometimes just as a form of learning with a touch of defiance).

I think with a new child in the family (my second born 6 months ago), the reason my child is doing this is likely a combination of the two. So in addition to doing some more work with him incorporating the baby into the family, I needed a solution fast to keep our house in one piece (and for my own sanity).

There’s likely no one answer that will work for every child. But there are a couple things that are helping me and my family deal with this habit at our home. Maybe they will work for your child, too.

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child looking at a book

Picking Paint

My 3-year-old started picking giant strips of paint off of his walls in his bedroom at bedtime a few months ago. No amount of consequences stopped him or even moving his bed away from the wall. When we finally broke down and repainted the torn areas, we needed to find a way to keep him from picking the paint.

Here is the best picture I have of the wall next to his bed…

child next to wall with picked paint (

What I came up with was a board with multiple layers of contact paper for my son to pick to his heart’s content. So, if I ever caught him picking the paint, I could point to the board and say: “We don’t pick the paint, but you CAN pick at your “pick board” all you want!”

It was great to be able to provide an outlet rather than a punishment!

Here is how I made it:


  1. A board
  2. Contact paper
  3. A pair of sharp scissors
  4. Optional: “xacto” knife

You can also place stickers to peal off of the board under the contact paper. However, we don’t want to find stickers we have to scrub off windows and the floor so we stuck to contact paper which peals off of most anything.

We have contact paper left over from a few projects so I can use different patterns as well to make the picking more fun for my son. You can find contact paper at some local stores, online, craft stores or hardware stores.

For your board, I tried a poster board from the dollar store, but that lasted a day since he picked the entire board apart! I suggest getting some tagboard or piece of wood. I was able to get a few spare pieces of wood from Buy Nothing to use!


placing contact paper on pick board by

1) Use your scissors to cut a piece of contact paper to fit your board.

2) Peel back the backing just on one end of the paper and stick it to your board as square as you can (this doesn’t have to be perfect – your child is just going to pick it off anyway!).

3) Pull the back of the contact paper off slowly as you stick the rest of it to your board.

4) Once the contact paper is in place, take your scissors or “xacto” knife and make random slices on the paper so that when your child peels it the entire sheet won’t come off! I did tons of slices so my son could pick big and little pieces off.

using an X-ACTO knife on the pick board for pieces by

5) Repeat with another sheet of contact paper with as many layers as you would like.

6) Done!

We also kept a special “pick garbage” next to the board so my son would throw away all the little bits rather than leaving them on the floor for me to clean up.

Here is what the board looked like after half a day using a poster board (which is why I recommend using something more durable!) with two layers:

picked pick board by

If your pieces are big enough, you may actually be able to reuse some of the pieces that are picked off (the beauty of contact paper!).

Ripping Books

I have a really hard time keeping my son from ripping book pages and covers. But, rather than providing a punishment for his behavior, I, again, wanted to find a more positive way to redirect his habit.

All I did was get an old cardboard box and fill it with old magazines (some from Buy Nothing) and junk mail (ads, etc). You could also add newspapers, already destroyed books or anything else is safe for your child to rip. Then, all you have to do is tell your child that everything in that box is safe for him to rip and tear.

Just keep in mind that my son did get a little sneaky and put a book or two of his own in the box. Thankfully, I found them before he started picking them apart!

We recycle the items he rips apart or repurpose them in our bunny dig box (we have 2 free-roam bunnies in our home).

Do you have any tips for other moms facing the same issues? Share them in the comments!

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Picking paint and ripping books (pinterest image) krisbeemama

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  1. This is Genius! I have a 5 year old who picks paint off our walls in the most random places! This should help him get it out of his system! Thanks so much for sharing!!

  2. Useful… Thanks for sharing

  3. my kids would try to destroy library books… paint picking not so much. these are great ideas! plus its just a phase, like everything!

    1. I’m so glad it’s a phase! I can’t wait to stop keeping an eye on the walls and books…

  4. Ripping books is one we’ve been looking to help with. Our little guy is always giving books some alterations. I guess maybe he’s not happy with the content.

    This tip is something we will definately try.

  5. What a great post! I have a few sweet little ones, and these tips come in handy!

  6. Tresa | The Mom Blog WI says:

    My son is only 2.5 yrs old, but the ripping of the books is so BAD! I’ve had to put away all paper paged books and have only left out cardboard books. He still has completely trashed two cardboard books on the last two days. It’s awful. We’ve tried everything; asking him to be nice to the books, showing him that the books are now ruined. It’s just awful. I can’t keep buying books with the way he is treating them. I don’t think he’s white old enough to understand that certain books are okay to rip and not, but this was a really great read. Thank you for sharing.

    1. 2.5 is a hard age to teach that some items are sacred and others are ok to mess around with. I think the key is keeping at redirecting his efforts until it finally clicks. For most of us, that means remaining constantly vigilant when your child is reading books. It takes time, patience and a lot of understanding that it’s just a phase.

  7. fiona ward says:

    is it normal for a 10 year old boyto do this? Last year was very traumatic for us as we had a house fire followed by my mum dying and all during lockdown. We are currently renting and blamed the dog for the paint coming off the walls but found our son doing it!

    1. I am not a therapist or anything, but picking paint can be very calming especially for someone who has gone through something traumatic like your son. I don’t think there is any age restriction for liking to pick at things. It could also be that the dog did bite at the paint and gave your son the idea, lol.

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