Find out why chewing on things could help kids focus in school

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Meagan Forsgren with ILS Learning shares why it may not be a bad thing to bite.

 When your child is a baby, it is only natural for them suck on bracelets, necklaces, chew toys, balls and other objects as their teeth begin to emerge. The teething process can sometimes be difficult for parents, but it is also a way for your child to begin developing their oral sensory motor skills, which "awakens" the sensory receptors in your child's mouth for speech, language, proprioception (joints and muscles in the mouth), and mealtime experiences.

Children with underdeveloped oral sensory motor tend to crave or desire more oral sensory motor input to keep their bodies calm and attentive. They constantly chew on their pencils, have a tendency to bite others and suck on their clothing or tags. These types of children also gravitate to extreme temperatures like hot or cold, sweet or sour, and very spicy foods. What is even more fascinating is their need for movement and stimulation within the mouth so they often make noises, such as buzzing, humming, whistling, and clearing their throat.

Oftentimes parents will get calls from teachers saying that their child is being disruptive in class because they are constantly making noise, disrupting their neighbors or they lack attention and focus. All of these issues could be caused by them not having enough oral sensory stimulation to attend and focus in the classroom.

Awakening Oral Sensory Receptors

There are many activities, toys and foods you can provide your child with to calm the body, improve sensory integration, awaken their sensory receptors and create better behavior, attention and focus in the classroom.

Toys

Chewelry: Bracelets, necklaces, pencil toppers, knobs. Chewelry is a subtle way for your child to chew and fidget at their desk without disrupting others. It provides the sensory input they need and gives them a few options when taking tests, listening to the teacher and sitting in their chair.

Whistles, Inspection Mirror, Electric toothbrush: All of these items are used to awaken the receptors in your child’s mouth. The whistle and toothbrush provide buzzing, vibration and movement for sensory integration. It will help your child with sucking on clothes, drooling and saliva issues. All three of these items also get your child’s tongue moving, which strengthens the muscles and joints within the mouth also used for speech and language.

Food

Granola Bars, Pretzels, Popcorn: Provide your child with crunchy snacks for the joints and muscles within the mouth. In addition, try feeding them more crunchy fruits and vegetables like apples, carrots, celery, nuts, etc.

Straws: Have your child drink thick milkshakes and smoothies through a straw. Encourages them to use their lips and mouth and requires deep breaths.

Extreme Flavors: Children with hypoactive systems gravitate to extreme flavors (hot and cold, sweet and sour, salty and sugary, spicy). Try them with different foods to see what they like. Pickles, sour gummy worms, salsa, hot soup, cold ice cream, etc. Children can also try chewy foods such as caramel, Swedish fish, gummy bears, gum, and starbursts.

Important: Encourage sweets and candy in moderation and find healthier options where possible.

For more information, go here. 

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