Let’s face it… all kiddos, especially our toddlers, over stuff their mouths during meals or snack from time to time. Typically, this happens when our overzealous little ones are beginning to transition to solids or when children can’t get enough of their favorite food or snack. Some kiddos, however, stuff their mouths during every mealtime and snack causing a great deal of concern to parents and caregivers. If your child is a frequent stuffer, here are a couple of tips to help!
- Pace him! Provide your child with small portions of food at a time – aim for only a few pieces of food during each offering. Make sure these pieces are small and can be easily managed. Also, you can encourage sips of a beverage between bites to help pace your little one.
- Wake up his mouth before mealtimes. Sometimes, kiddos over stuff during mealtimes because it takes more for their little mouths to feel the same thing that your mouth or my mouth may feel. To account for this, we want to “wake up” their mouths before a meal. You can give them a sip of ice cold water or tart lemonade before they start eating. Brushing your child’s tongue and insides of his cheeks with a toothbrush or a vibrating toothbrush can also serve as a sensory wake up before a mealtime or snack.
- Alternate tastes/textures during mealtimes. Just as we want to wake up a child’s mouth immediately before a mealtime, we want to continue waking up his mouth during the meal, too. Consider providing meals that contain a variety of spicy, crunchy, cold, or carbonated food and beverage items. These 4 sensory inputs can help a child become more aware of their mouth and organize oral movement more effectively. Foods such as pickles, raw carrots, and spicy dips can be included in the meal. Spices can be added to other foods. Cold, carbonated water can be sipped between mouthfuls. Add lemon to the carbonated water for extra sensory input if the child will accept it. Add ice to other liquids.
- Use a mirror. Provide your child with a mirror during mealtimes to give them additional visual feedback. They’re watching themselves eat and this can help to increase their awareness about how full their mouth is getting!
**Remember, before trying these tips at home, always consult with your speech-language pathologist to determine the best course of treatment for your child!
Julie Euyoque, M.A., CCC – SLP