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Kitchen Tools to Support Oral Motor Skill Development

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There are many kitchen tools we love and use in therapy. The best part, is that they are generally everyday tools that you already have in your own kitchens, and they transform the way kids can engage in food. And we aren’t talking about just knives and forks.

When it comes to oral motor skills, sometimes the food it’s just too difficult to chew, or it requires too much oral motor control for kids to feel safe. Adapting the food before it goes to a child’s lips can often increase their volume and willingness to chew and swallow a food that otherwise may have been avoided.

We recommend all children who struggle with chewing and swallowing work with a professional to understand what foods are most appropriate and safe for that child’s skills. Our ideas here are to help you rethink some tools you may already have in your cupboard and not specific recommendations for your child or client’s needs.

Here are some of our favorite kitchen tools for building Oral Motor Skills

Silicon straws

This is new to our list as they are more recently available in many stores. We love that they are wide enough to work on suction skills for oral motor and wide enough to fit even out of the ordinary things like Jello, pudding, and applesauce, which can be a great oral challenge for kids when they are ready. Also, these straws are a great tool for getting tongue movement when your child moves it around their own mouth, in addition to giving kids who are constantly wanting to chew on objects a great kitchen-based chewing alternative.

Mini Chopper

We love choppers! Mini ones, big ones, doesn’t matter we love them – here’s why. Pre-chopping the food is sometimes the just right step a child with oral motor difficulties needs to either taste for the first time or eat more volume of that somewhat preferred food. Chewing is hard work for some kids, and chopping first does the work for them. You can initially chop the food well and then work towards less chopping and letting them take on more work. Also, it’s great visual feedback to watch those metal “teeth” chop up the food.

Kid-safe toothpicks/ Small cocktail forks

Oral motor placement in the correct area (on the child’s back molars) can be difficult without good tongue movement and control. Little toothpicks and cocktail forks can allow kids to place the food on their back molars all by themselves, which helps them chew more efficiently. And these, which you can get on Amazon, are great for the imagination as well.

Make sure to keep an eye out for Part 2 next month, where we talk about the Sensory reasons why we love these kitchen utensils!


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