top of page

Improving Speech & Language

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

Lip 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

Cheek exercises:

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

Jaw exercises:

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

Tongue exercises:

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”

Say “shhhhh”

Say “Brrrrrrrr”

Palate exercises:

Puff cheeks and breath through nose while someone presses on against the cheeks

Straw blowing

Transfer puff balls through a straw from one bowl to another

Blow cotton balls or bubbles in water

Say “aahhhh”

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.


bottom of page