Blinking & Twitching in Toddlers

By Sharon Perkins
Tics are common in toddlers, but can indicate serious medical problems in some cases.
Tics are common in toddlers, but can indicate serious medical problems in some cases.

Kids often develop nervous tics that come and go for what seems like no reason. Blinking, sniffling, throat clearing or twitching can all fall into the category of things you wish your toddler would stop doing because they drive you crazy. But when your toddler develops what looks like a nervous tic that includes blinking and twitching, there could be a serious reason for it. Don't ignore tics accompanied by behavioral changes, such as becoming momentarily spacey or unresponsive.

Typical Tics

Tics are one of the most common behaviors in kids. As many as 25 percent of kids have some type of tic at one time or another, according to WebMD. Blinking is the most common type of tic. Twitches, on the other hand, are involuntary muscle spasms. An eye twitch can look like blinking, for example, but they're two different things. Most tics last anywhere from one month to one year; tics that last longer are called chronic tics.


Tics can appear when your kiddo is under some type of stress, such as starting a new school, dealing with a new sibling or mastering some heavy-duty skills, such as learning to ride a bike. Moving, losing a grandparent, parental arguments and just about anything else that rocks your toddler's world can set off tics. Sometimes, tics like throat clearing follow an illness where the behavior had a useful purpose and just continue after there's no need to keep doing it. Stress, physical issues such as dry eyes, not getting enough sleep or caffeine can cause muscle twitches.


Tics rarely need treatment, but if they're really bugging you, trying to get at the root of the behavior, rather than trying to eliminate the tic itself, might help. Talking about a tic generally makes the behavior worse, not better; making fun of it or belittling him for it won't help anything, either. Give your toddler the opportunity to talk about what's bothering him by asking open-ended questions about how his day is going or what he's been thinking about lately.

Serious Conditions

Blinking and twitching at the same time could be a sign of seizures in toddlers if accompanied by behavioral changes. While you might think of seizures as someone falling down and losing consciousness, more subtle types of seizures, such as absence seizures or complex partial seizures, are harder to recognize until you know what to look for. See your pediatrician if you suspect that tics and twitches might have a physical basis.

About the Author

A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.