Why Is Your Toddler Crossing Fingers? 7 Common Reasons

Toddlers, those little kids who are still learning about the world, sometimes cross their fingers, and it can be puzzling for parents.

The act of a toddler crossing fingers can hold various meanings and motivations. It offers a window into their emotions, experiences, and development.

Let’s figure out why they do this and how their thoughts, feelings, and interactions with others might be connected to this gesture.

Why Is My Toddler Crossing Fingers? 

toddler crossing fingers

Toddlers cross their fingers for various reasons. One of the most common ones is reflecting their developing coping mechanisms and emotions.

Besides, it can be a way to handle stress, fear, sadness, or anxiety, offering comfort during tough moments.

Family imitation, sensory processing issues, or sensory overload can also lead to finger-crossing as a form of self-regulation.

Stress, Fear, Sad, Or Anxiety Coping

When a toddler crosses fingers, it’s like how they deal with being stressed, scared, sad, or anxious. It shows us how they try to feel better when things are tough.

Babies might believe this behavior keeps bad stuff away or brings good things closer, like magic.

The finger-crossing can also be a way of saying, “I hope everything turns out okay.” Therefore, babies do this because it helps them feel more relaxed.

This behavior is like a friendly gesture telling us they’re learning to handle their feelings, even at a young age.

Family Imitation

Family imitation is another reason why a baby crosses fingers. Children often learn by observing people around them, especially family members and close relatives.

A parent, sibling, or someone in the toddler’s immediate circle may usually cross their fingers for some reason.

So, the toddler is likely to mimic this behavior, as it’s a natural part of their developmental process. 

This imitation behavior is a form of bonding within the family and a way for the toddler to feel connected and secure in uncertain times.

It serves as a powerful reminder of the influence of family and close relationships on a child’s early development.

Sensory Processing Issues

Why does my toddler cross his fingers? Sensory processing issues can be the reason for this.

Toddlers with sensory processing issues often use repetitive behaviors to handle sensory overload.

Certainly, sensory processing disorder (SPD) is a condition where a child’s brain struggles to interpret and respond to sensory information from their surroundings properly.

Certain sensations, such as touch or sounds, can be overwhelming for kids with SPD. So, they look for different ways to feel better in their environment.

Not all children with sensory processing difficulties are apt to autism. Around 90% of children with autism encounter some form of sensory overload.

Autism Indicator

Baby crossing fingers can be linked to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in certain instances. Some children with ASD may engage in repetitive behaviors, which include:

They do that as a way to self-regulate during stressful situations. However, it would help if you understood that not all children with ASD exhibit these behaviors.

These repetitive actions alone do not necessarily confirm an autism diagnosis.

Besides, an autism diagnosis is a complex process that considers various factors. It primarily focuses on social interaction and communication difficulties.

Infant Motor Skill Development

What does it mean when a toddler crosses their fingers? Infant motor skill development may play a crucial role in understanding this behavior.

Typically, babies exhibit random hand movements. These are reflexive and not consciously controlled in their early months.

However, the babies will grow, and their neurological and muscular systems will mature. At those points, they gain more control over their fingers and hands.

It allows them to intentionally manipulate objects and act like they are crossing their fingers.

This development emerges around 1 to 2 years or even later, depending on the child’s growth. It’s part of their exploration and experimentation with their bodies and surroundings.

Crossing fingers can be seen as a response to something they’ve observed in their environment.

It’s a method of self-soothing or an attempt to gain a sense of control through their body movements.

Infant Sensory Overload

Infant sensory overload can be another factor behind toddlers crossing their fingers.

These sensory difficulties can be shown as an overwhelming response to various textures, tastes, stimulations, or emotions.

When faced with such sensory overload, toddlers may cross their fingers as a relaxation mechanism.

It’s a way for them to regain a sense of comfort and control in their environment.

Hopeful Symbolic Gesture

Toddlers sometimes cross their fingers as a hopeful symbolic gesture. It goes beyond a mere reflex or coping mechanism for them.

Instead, this behavior is a way to express their optimism and desire for something good to happen.

For example, your toddler sits down to blow out the candles on their birthday cake. Just before making a wish, they cross their fingers.

This shows that even at such a young age, they understand that crossed fingers symbolize hope for something good, like a dream coming true.

Understanding that crossed fingers represent hope allows us to connect more deeply with our toddlers.

Thus, we can support and encourage them as they navigate their early experiences.

Solutions To Toddler Crossing Fingers 

Solutions To Toddler Crossing Fingers 

Address Sensory Needs

To cater to a toddler’s sensory needs, you can offer appropriate sensory toys and experiences.

These tools help toddlers explore and regulate their sensory experiences healthily.

For instance, toys like pop tubes are known for their feedback noise and rough texture. They can effectively engage a toddler’s senses.

Soft toys with various textures are another option, which can stimulate sensory input and aid emotional regulation.

Pull-string toys are famous for their cause-and-effect features, textures, and easy-to-grip strings. Therefore, they’re popular choices for toddlers around the age of 1.

Open Communication

Discussing the meaning behind crossed fingers with your child is important.

It’s best to explain that while crossed fingers may seem harmless, they often carry a negative connotation in certain situations.

You can tell your child that people often cross their fingers when hoping for something good to happen or trying to make a wish come true.

Engaging them in activities on the weekend is a good option to share with them your thoughts.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is an effective method to discourage finger-crossing in toddlers. It means rewarding them with praise or small rewards when they don’t cross their fingers.

You also teach them about making responsible choices when you consistently do this. It reinforces the values of honesty and encourages good behavior in various aspects of their life.

You can also apply this method to babies who keep putting their fingers in their mouths. This helps them establish good habits and feel proud of their choices.

Offer Alternative Outlets

You can encourage your child to find other ways of expressing themselves.

Drawing or writing about their feelings or joining in different activities can help them handle their emotions effectively.

These creative outlets provide a healthier means of processing emotions and expressing desires.

I usually let my 14-month-old toddler take part in some activities at weekends and talk to him more often.

Moreover, you can let them engage in playing music or coloring. These calming and soothing activities can offer comfort during challenging moments.

These are valuable tools to cope with stress or anxiety without relying on finger crosses. It empowers them to explore and express their emotions positively and constructively.

Therefore, it fosters emotional growth and resilience as they go through their early years.

Explain Symbolism

Explaining symbolism to toddlers can help address finger-crossing behavior. Pointing and clapping are gestures that convey specific meanings.

For example, pointing expresses desires or interests, while clapping shows joy and approval.

Similar to these gestures, crossed fingers symbolize hope and good wishes. However, it’s important to clarify that it’s unsuitable in all situations.

Teach toddlers when to use finger-crossing appropriately and when to express themselves with words or actions.

This helps them understand the impact of gestures on communication and relationships.

It fosters their ability to engage in social interactions effectively, making them more aware of gesture meanings daily.

Set Clear Boundaries

Establishing clear boundaries is a handy strategy to address this behavior. It’s best to set clear expectations and regularly remind them that behavior is unacceptable.

In other words, you create a framework for them to understand the limits. Consistency is key in reinforcing these boundaries.

In addition, remember to model the desired behavior. For example, you can cross your fingers and take a moment to explain why you don’t want your child to do it, either.

This demonstrates the importance of adhering to the established boundaries and shows them that you follow the same rules.

Encourage Self-Expression

Encouraging self-expression is a good option to address finger crosses. It involves creating an open, safe space for your child to express their thoughts, feelings, and desires.

You should foster an environment where they feel heard and understood. It can reduce the inclination to rely on non-verbal gestures.

Besides, positively encourage your child to share their hopes and wishes openly.

This approach promotes healthier ways of expressing themselves and builds their self-confidence and communication skills.

Should You Stop Your Toddler From Crossing Their Fingers?

Should You Stop Your Toddler From Crossing Their Fingers

No. It’s not necessary to stop your toddler from crossing their fingers in most cases, as this is generally a harmless behavior.

However, you’d better keep an eye on potential signs of any issues, such as:

  • Changes in the color of their fingers due to reduced blood flow
  • A noticeable impact on their fine motor skill

Such occurrences are extremely rare in children. However, if you have concerns, it’s best to consult with your child’s doctor for professional guidance.

Instead of making them stop crossing their fingers, try different things that can help them feel better without getting upset.

Fidget toys, like stress balls, can be an excellent replacement for finger crosses if the behavior seems habitual.

The below activities can provide a calming effect:

  • Joint compressions
  • Jumping on a trampoline or bed
  • Engaging in wheelbarrow walking

Ultimately, strike a balance between allowing your child to express themselves and ensure their well-being by monitoring any potential concerns associated with finger-crossing.


Is Crossing Fingers A Sign Of Autism?

No. Crossing fingers is generally not a sign of autism in children. Autism involves significant signs such as:

  • Social interaction challenges
  • Delayed speech
  • Limited facial expressions

Some autistic children have repetitive behaviors, but not all repetitive actions indicate autism.

Repetitive finger crosses can be a regular part of child development or responses to sensory experiences. Autism is a complex condition that can’t be diagnosed solely from one behavior.

If you’re concerned about your child’s behavior, closely observe them and seek appropriate support.

Is It Dangerous When Toddlers Cross Their Fingers?

No, it’s generally not dangerous when toddlers cross their fingers. But, parents should be attentive to signs of distress or developmental issues associated with this behavior.

It’s good to seek professional help, like a doctor or therapist.

Creating a safe and supportive environment for your child will come in handy. Pay close attention to their feelings and behavior, and offer affection and understanding.

These steps pave the way for healthy coping habits.

Remember, your child needs your love and attention, and you should prioritize self-care to meet their needs effectively.

Peer support, talking to professionals, and keeping an open mind can boost your confidence in your parenthood.

What Is The Connection Between Sensory Processing And Autism?

Autism and sensory processing often go hand in hand, with many autistic children experiencing sensory challenges. That said, sensory issues alone do not equate to autism.

Not all kids with sensory difficulties have autism. Some may receive a Sensory Processing Disorder diagnosis, although it’s not officially recognized in the DSM-5.

Sensory challenges are a common aspect of autism but not exclusive to it.


In conclusion, a toddler crossing fingers is a multifaceted behavior influenced by various factors. It can be a coping mechanism for stress, anxiety, or sensory overload.

Sometimes, it’s learned through family imitation or as a hopeful symbolic gesture. Seek professional help if there are concerns about developmental issues.

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