Oral-Motor Workouts for Home
By Thaashida L. Hutton, M.S., CCC-SLP
The term oral-motor refers to the use and function of the muscles of the face (lips, tongue, and jaw). For chewing and swallowing, children need to have the right amount of strength, range of motion, and coordination. When a child has limited movement, coordination, and/or strength of the lips, tongue and/or jaw, eating is difficult. Contact your child’s doctor if these issues are noticeable. The doctor may refer you to a speech-language pathologist or occupational therapist—licensed professionals that assess and treat oral-motor deficits.
Types of Oral-Motor Exercises
Your child can do the following oral-motor exercises to improve strength, range of motion, and coordination of the lips, tongue, and jaw. Use the blank lines below to create your own oral-motor exercise routine.
ο Open and close your mouth _______ times.
ο Pucker your lips as if your were going to give someone a kiss _______ times. ο Smile, then relax your lips and cheeks _______times.
ο Press your lips tightly together, then open them with a smack _______ times. ο Puff your cheeks with air while keeping your lips closed tightly _______ times.
ο Stick your tongue out as far as you can _______ times.
ο Move your tongue to the left side of your mouth then to the right side of your mouth _______ times.
ο Try to touch your chin with your tongue without moving your head _______ times.
ο Try to touch your nose with your tongue without moving your head _______ times. ο Push the inside of your cheek with your tongue on the right side and then on the left side _______times.
ο Place your tongue behind your front teeth and say “la” _______ times. ο Lick your lips _______ times.
ο Open your jaw as wide as you can _______ times.
ο Move your jaw from side-to-side slowly _______ times, then quickly _______ times.
ο Move your jaw up and down slowly _______ times, then quickly _______ times.
Oral-Motor Fun at Home
- Blowing Bubbles strengthens muscles of the lips and improves breath control.
- Licking peanut butter or marshmallow crème from the roof of the mouth or behind the top front teeth improves tongue elevation/lifting.
- Chewing gum improves jaw strength.
- Making silly faces improves strength, coordination andrange of motion of the lips, jaw, and tongue.
What are Developmental Domains?
by Becky L. Spivey, M.Ed.
From the moment of birth, children begin exploring their new world by touching, smelling, tasting, listening, observing, and playing. Through this constant exploration, they are rapidly developing the “domains” of their physical and mental abilities. The simplest of activities at every age level promotes stimulation and growth in their cognitive, social, language, and physical (fine and gross motor) skills. These four domains develop all at the same time.
Cognitive Development is learning and processing of information – our thinking and knowing. Cognition involves language, imagination, thinking, reasoning, problem solving, and memory. Our cognitive skills help us organize what we know and generalize that knowledge into other areas. School teachers understand how children learn and process information; therefore, they can recognize a breakdown in cognition. When a red flag appears, teachers may refer a child for an evaluation to pinpoint the breakdown – and the sooner, the better. This child may have a learning disability or some other deficit that needs attention. Help your child develop cognitive skills from an early age by having him/her work with puzzles, blocks, peg games, card games, patterns, and cause and effect activities.
Language Development is learning to express ourselves in order to communicate with others. We learn to express ourselves by learning sounds, combining those sounds into meaningful words, and putting words together into sentences to communicate our thoughts. Then we are able to interpret sounds from others. Talking to our children before they can talk, engaging children in conversation (even when they are just beginning to talk), and exposing children to books and reading to them are instrumental in developing later literacy and language skills. Reading, talking, and singing to children from birth, and providing books and language videos or DVDs for them when they are older will help children develop important language skills.
Social Development is learning to like ourselves and to get along with others. Being in an active environment teaches us to share, take turns, accept the differences in others, include others in play/ conversation, and the list goes on. Just by watching others interact, children learn valuable social skills. That is why the examples we set and the behaviors we display are important. Children are always watching and copying what they see others do.
Unfortunately, some children may develop serious emotional or personality problems at some point. These problems include symptoms of extreme anxiety, withdrawal, and fearfulness; or, on the other hand, disobedience, aggression, and destruction of property. If parents suspect their child’s social development is not going well (compared to his/her peers), discuss your observations with your family doctor or school counselor. From an early age, having your child interact with other children and adults as much as possible is the best way to help him/her develop socially. Playing games, having conversations in the car or at the dinner table, playing with friends, having parties, going out to eat, etc. are all invaluable ways to foster social development.
Physical Development falls into two categories – fine motor and gross motor skills. Fine Motor skills are activities occurring with the fingers in coordination with the eyes, such as reaching, grasping, releasing, and turning the wrist. These small muscle movements don’t develop overnight, but with time and practice. Fine motor skills help us perform tasks for daily living, such as dressing, eating, toileting and washing. In the early childhood years, children become independent and learn to dress and undress themselves without assistance; use utensils for eating; and pour liquid without assistance.
Activities to promote fine motor control include: putting together puzzles with small pieces, peg board games, painting, drawing, cutting, stringing and lacing activities, construction and building sets like Legos®, Lincoln Logs®, buttons, snaps, and tying.
Gross Motor Development involves the larger muscles in the arms, legs, and torso. Gross motor activities include walking, running, throwing, lifting, kicking, etc. These skills relate to body awareness, reaction speed, balance, and strength. Gross motor development allows your child to move and control his/her body in different ways. It promotes your child’s confidence and self-esteem and allows the body to perform multiple demands beyond simple muscle movements.
At home or in the classroom environment, have children practice: walking on their toes or heels; walking with toes pointed in or out; walking or moving like a certain animal (crab, worm, bear, bunny, frog, elephant, gorilla, kangaroo, etc.); playing kickball, tetherball, volleyball, basketball, or skating; swinging, sliding, climbing on monkey bars, or playing on a tire swing; balancing while walking along a curb; walking forward, backward, sideways, and heel-to-toe; walking while balancing a book on the head; jumping, hopping, crawling, rolling, doing jumping jacks, and jumping over obstacles. Participating in sports groups help develop gross motor skills as well as cognition, as many sports require thinking and planning where and what their body needs to do next.