As we discussed in the previous post, speaking is not an easy task. It's challenges lie in that we can't always see the structures and body parts used to make the sounds. Coordinating the lips, tongue, teeth, jaw, and lungs to produce a sound all in a split second seems impossible, but yet, we do it thousands of times in a day. One thing I know for sure is that if I were trying to learn a new skill, food would motivate me! Snack and meal times are a great time to incorporate some of these oral strengthening activities.
Introduce your child to a variety of textures. Smooth, crunchy, chewy, lumpy, or bumpy textures gives your little ones' mouth with an adventure. Challenging their tongue, teeth, and lips to work in new and different ways then the meal before. If your child is hesitant to new things, don't push it too hard. Have them smell it, lick it, kiss it, or even just hold it the first few encounters with the new item.
Drink from a variety of cups. Trying different cups, mugs, glasses, and straws allows your child to use their lips, tongue, and teeth in a variety of ways. Additionally, it is important for toddlers to drink from cups without lids everyday to develop the skills necessary for speech production. Lay down a tarp and let them go!
Hold a cracker or pretzel in your lips. Have them do the same.
Practice biting with different teeth. Show them by taking bites of the cracker or pretzels using the front, sides, and back teeth.
Let your little one experiment with taking bites from larger pieces of food. Cutting food into small pieces for safety is recommended, but when supervised closely let your child take bites on his/her own. For more in-depth information check out Baby Led Weaning resources.
Drink thicker liquids like smoothies and milkshakes through a straw
Blow on warm food together.
Most importantly, enjoy this time with your child. Meal times can be stressful and busy, but if you take a few minutes to connect and engage with your little one it can be both nourishing for them and you!