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If your toddler refuses to eat or is a picky eater, one of the many causes for his picky behaviour could be a lack of tongue lateralization. Now as a parent, you may never have considered that tongue lateralization or rather the lack of it could be a problem for your child, but it can make your child a picky eater. Nevertheless, it can be easily rectified with a few exercises. Find out how!
What is Tongue Lateralization in Toddlers?
Tongue lateralization refers to the sideways movement of the tongue inside the mouth. When we eat something, the bite we take 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 development 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 manoeuvre 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. Let’s Mimic!
Your toddler will love this activity! When you help your toddler brush his teeth, make him look in the mirror and make some funny faces that involve using tongue movements. Then ask your toddler to mimic these actions and make the same faces at you. This is a great exercise to develop tongue movement in toddlers.
2. Mealtime Activity
While feeding your toddler, take two pieces of soft food and place them 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. Practising 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. Change the place where you dab the sticky food so that your toddler uses his tongue in several directions. Of course, you might have to demonstrate this to him first, but he will have fun!
4. Finger Foods
Place finger foods like carrot, cucumber sticks, or chips on the molar of your toddler. This will prompt him to use his tongue to chew the food and then swallow it.
You can also use a gum massager to push your toddler’s tongue sideways. His reflexes will encourage him to push your finger with his tongue. This is a good exercise to enhance tongue movement in toddlers!