Who would have thought that there was so much science and reasoning behind those annoying food behaviors in our kids? Our guest blogger today is here to teach us all about just that!
Apples are in season! If they’re cooked down all soft and gooey in a pie or tart, most kids will be able to eat them beautifully. However, fresh apple slices (especially with the peel on) can be a crunchy trap you might not be aware of. Many children ask to have the peels taken off their apple slices not because of taste, but because the peel is harder to bite through. Once a peel is in the mouth, it doesn’t “squish up” easily like the apple flesh without putting a lot of work in to chewing, moving food around, and a strong push to the back of the tongue for swallowing (think of an adult eating jerky). You might also have a kiddo who takes four bites of an apple and discards it by the DVDs, in the dollhouse, or on the bookshelf. The force and jaw strength it takes to open wide enough to sink little teeth into a crunchy, round apple, break the flesh, and close all the way through the flesh to pull it from the core–is a HUGE amount of effort, and they haven’t even chewed that bite yet. Your kiddo might have put the apple down because eating it was more exhausting than it was worth it to them–and they legitimately might still be hungry. So next time there is a standoff in the kitchen over to peel or not to peel or how many barely nibbled apples you’ve found lying around, keep in mind that biting and chewing those juicy greens, reds, and yellows may have been more than your kiddo’s jaw could keep up with.
Nougat, caramel, candy corn, and more! With Halloween just around the corner, your kiddo is likely to come home with buckets of chewy, gooey goodies. Here are a few thing you might not realize about all those sticky delights. Many kids compensate for weaker jaw muscles by pulling and tearing because they can’t bite all the way down and through some things–this is when the candy is in those long, sinewy ribbons mixed with drool that they wipe on your couch. They can’t make it through the candy so they have to use their hands and turn their heads to rip it apart–hence the sticky fingers. Sugar Daddies, Caramel Apple Pops, and Milk Duds are prime examples of these hard to bite through couch bombs. Candies like Tootsie Rolls and Swedish Fish are going to take a lot of chewing, and I mean a lot–and this is a lot of work for little jaws, so sometimes just spitting it out mid-chew is easier than finishing the job. Keep in mind this Halloween season that the messes on hands, couches, and carpets might really be a result of a tired and overworked jaw that just couldn’t keep up with the demands of chewing all those sticky treats.
Tricks for Treats
- Work on strengthening little jaws by chewing bubblegum.
- Try having your kiddo open their mouths as wide as they can and holding it for 10 seconds (scary ghost face!) and then closing it as tight as they can (make an “eeek” sound)–think of it like a push up for the mouth.
- Try peeling “most” of the skin off apple slices so your little one’s tongue, teeth, and jaw can get used to the extra workload gradually.
- When digging into the Trick or Treat stash, encourage your kiddo to alternate between the sticky, chewy choices and a lollipop or M&Ms to give their mouths a rest!
- If you’ve noticed any of the signs mentioned above or are concerned about your kiddo’s jaw strength, picky eating habits, or difficulty biting, chewing or swallowing – consult a specialist!
Special thank you to today’s guest blogger, Sarah Cicconetti, MA, CCC-SLP. Sarah is a Pediatric Feeding/Speech-Language Pathologist with Synergy Family Therapy Specialists in Centerville.