My 15-month-old son puts EVERYTHING in his mouth. He walks around sucking on a toy or other object all the time. Should I give him a pacifier? My mom said that she has heard that a child will do this if he/she has a vitamin or mineral deficiency. Is that true? I don't feel comfortable taking him outside any more because he eats the dirt, sand, and finds mushrooms in our lawn.
Fifteen-month-olds are certainly known for putting lots of things other than food in their mouths as they explore the world around them. In fact, I find safety-proofing a toddler’s surroundings accordingly to be one of the biggest challenges (and responsibilities) for toddler parents! That’s why you’ll always hear that it is particularly important at this stage of parenthood to make very sure that there are no small toys or parts around that your child could choke on, that all toxic or poisonous products are locked safely out of reach, and that you stay within an arm’s reach of your toddler when you are around anything you don’t want your toddler to put in his mouth—including but not limited to dirt, sand, and mushrooms!
With regard to your question about pacifiers, I have found them to be useful in instances where toddlers were particularly prone to putting things in their mouths. While your mother is correct in recognizing that there is a condition known as “pica” that by definition involves “a tendency or craving to eat substances other than normal food,” it is most common in children between the ages of 2 and 3 with developmental disabilities, individuals with brain injury, or in the case of iron-deficiency (in which case the classic description is of excessively chewing/eating ice). While it is true that pica involves a tendency to put everything (or more specifically, non-food items) in one’s mouth, it’s not usually considered until after the age of about 18 months—the age when we expect most kids to grow out of this habit very common toddler habit.
In the meantime, you should not hesitate to check in with your pediatrician regarding any concerns about your child’s behavior and/or nutritional status—both to get additional assessment and advice, but also to (hopefully) put your mind at ease.