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Parents often complain about their toddlers being too fussy and picky about what they eat. What most parents don’t realize is that a lack of tongue lateralization in toddlers can be its root cause. However, this can be easily rectified with a few exercises. Find out how.
It’s only after your child sprouts a few teeth when you start experimenting with different types of eatables. Sometimes, this can be a very trying experience, with your toddler refusing to take new types of textured foods. This phase occurs mainly because your little one’s tongue isn’t properly lateralized.
What is Tongue Lateralization in Toddlers?
Tongue lateralization refers to the sideways movement of the tongue inside the mouth. When we eat food, the bitten piece is first grabbed by the tongue and then moved to the side to be ground by the teeth. After the chewing is complete, the tongue brings back the food to the center of the mouth and then pushes it down the throat so that it can be swallowed. All this can take place only when there is proper tongue lateralization.
Children can find it hard to graduate from pureed food to textured food. Lack of oral motor developmental milestone is one of the main reasons why toddlers can be fussy about their food. They reject a particular food item not because they don’t like it, but because their tongue isn’t lateralized enough to maneuver it around their little mouth. You can help your child control his tongue movements with some very easy and fun activities.
Activities to Develop Tongue Movements in Toddlers
1. Mimicking Time
Your toddler will love this activity! When you help your toddler brush his teeth, look at the mirror and pull some funny faces that make use of tongue movements. Now ask your toddler to mimic these actions and make the same faces at you! This is a great exercise to develop tongue movements.
2. Mealtime Activity
While feeding your toddler, take two pieces of soft food and place these on either side of his mouth. This way, your child will have to use his tongue to get the food, chew it, and then push it down the throat. Practicing this daily will enhance your toddler’s tongue lateralization.
3. Sticky Food Time
Play a game with your toddler using some sticky foods like chocolate spread or peanut butter. Dab this on your little one’s lips and ask him to lick it off.Alter the place where you dab the food so that your toddler uses his tongue in several directions. Of course, you might have to demonstrate this to him first.
4. Finger Foods
Place finger foods like carrot, cucumber sticks, or chips on the molar of your toddler. This will prompt the child to use his tongue to chew the food and then swallow it.
You can also use a gum massager to push your toddlers tongue sideways. His reflexes will definitely encourage him to push your finger with his tongue. This is a good exercise to enhance tongue movement in toddlers. What did you do to improve tongue lateralization in your child? Share your thoughts with other mothers who might be in this phase.