Oral-Motor Exercises for Children
Oral-Motor Skills in Children refer to the appropriate functioning and use of the facial muscles (lips, jaw, tongue, cheeks, and palate) for speaking and eating. Achieving oral-motor skills is an important part of every child’s communication and feeding development. Normal oral-motor development begins during foetal stage and continues up until 4 years of age. By 3 years of age a child should be able to consume liquids and solids through straws and open mouth cups and chew advance food textures such as whole fruits, meats etc.
A delay in oral-motor development may lead to poor verbal communication skills and feeding difficulties. Some children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Down’s syndrome, Intellectual Disability and Global Developmental Delays present with weakness of oral muscles. Oral-motor exercises help to improve strength, range of movement and co-ordination of the oral muscles which will facilitate better speech and swallowing function
The following lists the skills for the functioning of all facial muscles:
Wriggles and Giggles deliver face to face group sessions in Yarm, Hartburn, Ingleby Barwick that you can join by booking a sessions that best suits you, if you are a parent or carer to an early years child from birth. All areas of learning are covered for your child's development and your own understanding of how that happens and how to get the best outcome for them with your parenting techniques.
Who needs oral-motor exercises?
These are some signs in a child that oral-motor skills need attention:
Speech sound errors/ delayed verbal language skills
Mouth is usually in open position
Tongue hangs out of the mouth
Drooling/ Excessive saliva secretion
Often food falls out of the mouth while feeding
Difficulty chewing and biting
Unable to elevate or protrude tongue
Choking or coughing often while eating
Gagging while feeding
Unable to suck, lick, chew or blow
Preference of specific food texture/ oral sensory issues
If any of the above stated issues have been persisting in a child, it is highly recommended to consult with a Speech-Language Therapist. Request this referral from your GP.
How and when should you practice with your child?
The activities listed below are easy to practice with children. Try to incorporate the exercises during play time with your child. It is very important to demonstrate and model these exercises to facilitate faster learning. You can use a mirror or a puppet to make it interesting. If a child is unable to do a particular oral-motor exercise listed below, it’s an indication to train for that specific muscle group. These exercises can be repeated three to six times a day until the skills improve. Every child learns at his/her own pace, progress may be noted in a few days to weeks or sometimes it may also take months.
If you are already consulting with a Speech-Language Therapist, please follow their advice regarding your child.
Oral-motor exercises: mouth exercises
Make a smile (hold for 3 seconds), relax and repeat the same
Make a smile then say “ooooo” , “eeeeeee”
Lip pops, say “pop” “puh” “pe” with exaggerated pressure
Lollypop squeeze (Hold and squeeze lollypop with lips for 6 seconds)
Lip press (press your lips together for 3-6 seconds)
Make a kiss (hold 3-6 seconds)
Smack lips together (5 times)
Make humming sounds
Drink through a twisty straw
Make silly faces in a mirror
Blow bubbles or puff balls
Blow cheeks with air and hold (3-6 seconds)
Massage cheeks with two fingers in clockwise and anti-clockwise direction (6 times)
Holding ice cream stick between lips (3-6 seconds)
Drink from a straw
Chewing a sweet
Chewing a chewy stick or toy
Drinking thick milkshake from a straw
Playing tug-a-war by holding a chewy sweet in between the lips and you pull it away
Open the jaw wide and say “aaah” (hold 3-6 seconds)
Massage the jaw gently towards and away from the lips
Chew to make a paste of advance food textures (carrots, apples, pear etc)
Ice chips on jaw and lips to improve sensory awareness
Lick lollipops up and down protruding the tongue outside the mouth
Licking honey or yogurt from sides of the lips
Tongue clicks and popping sounds
Hold tongue elevated (3-6 seconds)
Hold tongue outside the mouth (3-6 seconds)
Touch tongue tip to nose
Push and hold the tongue inside both sides of cheek (3-6 seconds)
Chew a biscuit to make it soft and mushy
Fold and hold tongue tip between lips (3-6 seconds)
Push against a lollypop on either side protruding the tongue (hold 6 seconds)
Gently press the lollypop on the tongue (6 times)
Place coco pops or cheerios on the tongue tip and lift and press against the palate
Say “puh tuh kuh” repeatedly in the order
Say “lalalala” “tatata”
Puff cheeks and breath through nose while someone presses on against the cheeks
Transfer puff balls through a straw from one bowl to another
Blow cotton balls or bubbles in water
Say “ma ba” alternating
Say “na da” alternating
Eat cold food (ice cream etc) for oral awareness
Is oral-motor therapy effective?
Practicing oral-motor exercises will greatly improve a child’s ability to eat better and produce speech sounds with improved clarity. However, not all children may benefit from stand-alone oral-motor exercises and may need additional Speech-Language therapy. If you are concerned about your child’s speech-language development, please contact a Speech-Language Therapist as soon as possible.