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If your child has a combination of sucking as well as chewing, they may prefer a slightly thicker chew toy. Make Note : Oral input and stimulation requires adult supervision. Observe, track, and see what is going on before making changes! If you see your child is still mouthing, chewing, or sucking on items beyond what is expected, or longer than other children their age, you may try to teach them to explore through use of their hands instead of their mouth.
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What other ideas can you think of? Judy Benz Duncan, Occupational Therapist. Oral sensory seeking, which includes mouthing, chewing and sucking on objects after the age of two, is commonly reported alongside other issues such as sensory issues, autism, developmental delays and learning disabilities. Keep track of all responses!
Oral sensory seeking
Chewing, mouthing, and sucking helps to self soothe and is a strategy that children use to help to calm themselves if they are experiencing sensory overload. This will help save a lot of frustration and avoid sensory meltdowns!
A growing child receives environment and body awareness proprioceptive feedback through their mouths. Note : For ideas including food, consider any allergies or dietary requirements the child may have; always observe for safety, choking hazards!
While this oral sensory seeking and mouthing stimulation and exploration does gradually decrease, some children continue to seek out this behavior to the age where it becomes a concern for parents. Just telling them to stop is not going to help and may even aggravate the situation.
Stay calm – breathe – take breaks – have fun!
For children with sensory processing deficits, oral sensory seeking behaviors help with self-regulation. If they chew on their front teeth, using a more circular toy may work better for them.
When you introduce new oral input, try only one type at a time, and see how the child reacts. Mouthing on objects is a very common way for young children to explore new things and their environment. For children who continue to need to mouth, chew, or suck, to meet their sensory needs and to self soothe, there are acceptable alternatives that you can gently work to reinforce their use with your .
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Remember, it is not that your child wants to chew or mouth items. Does your child chew on their clothes, toys, and other objects for longer or more often than other children their age seem to do? For many children, they may not even realize that they are using their mouths like with sucking their thumbs!
There are also activities and exercises that you can work with your child on to help reduce or alter their oral sensory seeking behaviors. Mouthing and chewing behaviors can be very calming, and often the reason so many young children suck their thumbs or refuse to be parted from their pacifier.
What has worked for you and your child?