My 5 year-old daughter puts everything in her mouth - what can I do?
What a great question, Beverly! I know many parents can relate to this. Babies typically start mouthing objects by 4 months, and around 6 months, they mouth just about anything they can grab. As icky as it can be sometimes, baby mouthing is a normal stage of development — it’s part of how they learn about the world. As children get older, they’re more likely to explore objects with their hands and less likely to put them in their mouths. Most children by the age of 4 stop mouthing non-food objects, but if it persists, it could mean they’re seeking oral input to help organize their nervous system and stay calm.
Here are a few tips to help children decrease the need to mouth non-food items:
Provide crunchy or chewy foods throughout the day, such as fruit leather or dried fruit, carrot sticks, pretzels, raw veggies, and apples.
Encourage chewing gum or sucking on mints. (link product?)
Provide your child with movement opportunities throughout the day that provide feedback to their muscles and joints (e.g., animal walks, jumping games, climbing).
Use a vibrating toothbrush as a sensory toy (and toothbrushing, too!).
Provide chewing alternatives like Chewelry— food safe chewable jewelry. (link product?)
When an older child continues to mouth non-food objects, it’s important to determine if sensory processing difficulties are contributing to their oral-seeking behaviors. If you would like more guidance around how to support your child with their oral-seeking behaviors, schedule a free consultation with an expert Kinspire occupational therapist to get started.