Updated: Feb 8, 2020
Babies and toddlers are known to be messy eaters. This is how they learn to feed themselves and it’s a process. What happens when children don’t outgrow this phase and continue to struggle with eating and drinking skill? It can be awkward and uncomfortable for families dealing with messy manners. It could be the child has developed a habit of breathing through their mouth, rather than their nose. This makes it difficult for chewing as the struggle is real…. how does one breathe through their mouth and chew their food at the same time?
How you chew, swallow and position your tongue in your mouth, repeatedly thousands of times a day through your life, affect your teeth and smile, face shape and ability to breathe properly. Breathing through your nose with lips together, teeth slightly apart and the tongue resting on the roof of the mouth helps to prevent crowded teeth by encouraging healthy growth and development of the face and jaw.
Chew, Chew, Chew….
Chewing hard crunchy foods stimulates good jaw growth. In our fast-paced society “pouch foods” have been an easy way to get kids to eat fruit and veggies. Getting your kids to eat solid crunchy foods will exercise the jaw, encouraging bone growth and balanced muscle function for good eating skills.
Here are some tips to help with making this transition:
1. Involve children in healthy meal planning. This is time well spent, bonding with your child and discussing good food choices. The importance of oral health and its impact on overall health.
2. Teach good chewing habits. Eat together as a family. Dinner is often a time to catch up on the day’s events. Encourage children to talk and eat at the table, but to slow down and not do both at the same time. Lips together while chewing keeps the lips strong and improves manners.
Teach children when not eating or talking to rest with their mouth closed. Start this immediately after birth. Close your baby’s lips lightly with your fingers for a few seconds when finished nursing. Simply being aware of where your child’s tongue is resting in the mouth (on the roof) gives you the tools to coach and remind children the tongue has a special place to rest- snuggled up on the roof of the mouth when quiet.
Establishing good nutrition and eat habits at an early age will promote optimal oral-facial growth and development in children. Whole body health and wellness starts with the mouth. Remember, “the mouth is for eating, the nose is for breathing".