Oral motor exercises for kids

Does your child face difficulty in chewing foods? Have you spotted your child facing trouble in sipping up juice with the help of straw? Does he always smash food using tongue rather than his cute teeth? If this isn’t taken care of sooner, it can later lead to chewing and eating difficulties. And then oral motor exercises of the mouth can come to the rescue. To know if they’re going to be helpful for your child, we’ll need to do some detective work. To begin with, you’ll need to think about what and also how your child eats.

Let’s try to understand it with clarity!

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What does Oral motor exactly mean?

Oral motor refers to the way our mouth’s muscles are used. The tongue, lips, cheeks, and jaw are all included in this. All of them are components of our mouth that are connected to numerous muscles; like all muscles, they can be strong or weak.   To speak, eat, or drink through a straw, we require oral motor skills. Although most of us don’t give them much thought, they are indeed very crucial.

Also check, Focus and attention building activities for kids.

Signs: Necessity for oral motor mouth exercises

The following are some warning signs that oral motor skills require attention:

  • When attempting to eat, food spills out of the mouth.
  • Sucks food rather than chewing it
  • Mashes food with the tongue
  • Gagging on food after it’s been in mouth
  • Tongue hangs out of the mouth
  • Preference for a certain food texture (Crunchy or soft)
  • Drooling
  • Mouth is frequently in an open position
  • Having trouble sticking out the tongue
  • Having trouble chewing
  • Inability to hold straw in mouth

Also check, Speech sound disorders in kids.

Types of mouth exercises that can help

Oral motor mouth exercises indeed help in strengthening the oral muscles and also aid in chewing and eating actions.

They include:

1. Tongue exercises

Some of these exercises help in stimulating the tongue movements.

  • Brush teeth using vibrating toothbrush – It helps to intensify sensory input
  • Licking the popsicles and lollipops – Helps in regulating tongue movements
  • Placing pudding, yoghurt, or applesauce on the  mouth’s corners and letting them lick it off. In case your child has trouble doing this, mirrors can be useful – Helps in making the tongue flexible
  • Count teeth with the tongue – Helps in improving tongue movements
  • Clicking and blowing with tongue (6-7 times for 10 secs each)

Also check, Hearing and speech development.

2. Lip and Cheek exercises

These exercises help in strengthening the cheek muscles.

  • Blowing Air kisses – Helps in relaxing the muscles
  • Making silly faces like Fish lips, spread lips far apart, kiss lips, making “O” shape with lips, Blowfish with cheeks puffed out – To gain control over lip movements
  • Playing Harmonica – Helps for cheek muscle workout
  • Blow Whistles – Help in controlled lip movements (4-5 times)
  • Straw Manipulation 1: Place a straw in the centre of your mouth. Move the straw to the right side of your mouth and then to the left without using your hands.
  • Straw Manipulation 2: Place a straw in the centre of your mouth. Have a 1-2 minute conversation without dropping the straw or using your hands to keep it in place. 

Also check, Speech regression in kids.

3. Jaw Exercises

These type of mouth exercises help in improving jaw muscles.

  • Biting a vibrating toy – Helps in relaxing the jaw muscles
  • Holding a handheld massager against the jaw for a brief period of time will help to stimulate the muscles.
  • Bite on fruit snacks and frozen gummies are excellent additions to reduce jaw resistance.
  • The animal jigglers can even be used as utensils and are designed to fit inside your child’s mouth. Children are frequently encouraged to chew on the chewy texture.
  • Jaw Circles: Ask the child to move their lower jaw around slowly in a complete circle.
  • Jaw Opening: Ask the child to open his jaw as wide as he can until feels firm stretching but no pain. Also, ask him to hold this position for 5 seconds.

Also check, Home remedies for oral health of kids.

Foods that can aid oral motor muscle development

The types of food that can aid motor functioning that can effectively impact oral functioning include:

1. Nuts

Children who bite and chew more fibrous sources of protein, such as nuts, have stronger jaws and are less likely to experience bite problems. Apart from that all the nuts like almonds, walnuts, cashew, peanuts and hazelnuts are rich in vitamin E and help in boosting memory. They are also antioxidants which protect against cell damage. Walnuts are rich in omega 3 fatty acids and are also valuable substance for brain function, memory and thinking abilities. It helps in improving oral motor skills and speech development.

Also check, Best nuts and seeds for protein.

2. Seeds

Seeds like flax, chia, melon, sesame and pumpkins also contain powerful antioxidants like vitamin E that protect the brain from free radical damage. Sunflower seeds impact overall mood and mental processing powers and therefore it is considered a brain boosting snack. Pumpkin seeds are high in magnesium, copper, and also higher in zinc than other seeds. They also help in increasing concentration and memory. Healthy brain can effectively help in improving oral motor skills and speech development.

Also check, Health benefits of pumpkin seeds.

3. Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is an adaptogen. It can help in reducing anxiety and stress. Moreover, it increases acetylcholine levels which support better memory, mental focus and intelligence. Ashwagandha also improves communication between nerve cells and stimulates the body’s capacity to heal any nervous system damage. For general nourishment and renewal, ashwagandha is typically eaten with ghee and honey (in equal parts), which serve as anupans (a medium for delivering herbs deeper into the tissues).

Also check, Health benefits of Ashwagandha.

4. Brahmi

Brahmi is a superfood for the brain. It helps in sharpening the brain by protecting cells and also increases the chemicals associated with learning and memory. It has shown to improve spatial learning and retaining power in kids. Kids in the older times, were often given Brahmi powder with ghee/honey. This would increase their focus and attention while keeping them calm and distressed. It helps in improving the oral motor skills and speech development. The most notable advantage of brahmi is that it enhances cognitive abilities and also stimulates the mind to increase focus and memory. Bacopa, taken twice daily at a dose of 300 mg, was found to improve test results related to cognitive function after six weeks of regular treatment.

Also check, Herbs for kids.

5. Shankhapushpi

Shankhapushpi is a traditional remedy for increasing the functioning of the brain. The powerful antioxidants and also the flavonoids present in it improve the memory capacity, focus, concentration, calmness and alertness of an individual. Because it is a brain tonic and stimulator, people taking shankhapushpi have improved memory, reasoning, problem-solving, and other cognitive abilities.

Also check, Herbs that help to get rid of brain fog.

6. Cocoa Powder

Pure cocoa powder (unsweetened) contains brain boosting components as it is packed with a large number of antioxidants molecules, the main is epicatechin helpful to improve cognition and speech impairment in studies. Hence cocoa powder is also an important brain development food for children. This may significantly help out in easily building up the oral motor skills.

Also check, More benefits of cocoa powder.

The finest gains come from practicing these mouth exercises at home in between sessions. The better, the more opportunities are offered. However, the child should never be forced to mouth, bite and so also to chew. It takes time, a lot of patience, and innovative thinking to teach these abilities. But also, with consistency and patience , oral motor muscles can be effectively trained for chewing a wide range of foodstuffs!


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