Treat Yourself: An Oral Sensory and Motor Tip

When babies are born, they have an automatic response to suck, allowing them to feed. Considered their first oral-motor skill, sucking also strengthens the muscles in the mouth and jaw, building toward biting, crunching, chewing, and licking. 

Kids who rely on sucking or chewing to focus or calm themselves may seek to do this on inedible objects, like pens/pencils or shirt sleeves/collars. If this is the case for your child, try this super tasty tip to provide more appropriate alternatives for chewers and suckers.

Here are some food items that will help arouse, organize, or calm your child. Consider the 3 Ts (texture, taste, and temperature):

  • Texture
    • Chewy – gum, fruit snacks, gummy bears, jerky, licorice
    • Creamy – pudding, yogurt, cream cheese
    • Crunchy – celery, apples, granola, crackers, popcorn
    • Thick – peanut butter, hummus, bananas, avocado, smoothies
  • Taste
    • Salty – pretzels, chips, peanuts
    • Spicy – salsa, hot and spicy flavored snacks, red hot candies
    • Sweet – grapes, raisins, pineapples, oranges, all-natural lollipops
    • Sour – Sour Patch Kids, pickles, lemon/lime slices, Greek yogurt
    • Tart – cranberry juice, grapefruit juice, lemonade, raspberries, blackberries
  • Temperature
    • Hot – hot cocoa, warm baked goods
    • Cold – ice water, Whole Fruit bars, frozen yogurt, milkshakes

Have your child pick out treats that they will enjoy before doing focused activities. 

Prepare these snacks on a plate/bowl/cup as a routine each time your child is about to complete a challenging or potentially overstimulating activity, such as completing homework or going to a social event with new people.

See what foods seem to help when it comes to keeping them focused or calm. Perhaps a certain food will do the opposite and stir them up. If gum does not seem to help them focus on their homework, see if a lollipop will do. Adjust as needed within their daily dietary/sugar intake.

If this seems to be working at home and your child is having difficulty focusing at school, see if the teacher will allow them to have a few of these desired snacks in class. If they say yes, pack extra in their lunchbox.

For more activities, check out our Activities list and the Child(ish) Advice Pinterest page

Kranowitz, C.S. (2006). The Out-of-Sync Child has Fun: Activities for Kids with Sensory Processing Disorders.

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