We revisit our favourite resources in this weeks blog, and will be looking at oral motor toys. These toys are used just about every day in the clinic, serving a variety of purposes. We have previously looked at oral regulation in our Chewing through the facts article, and for further explanation of how oral motor regulation can be effective, have a peruse through the article. However, in clinic there are a number of ways we use oral regulation and oral motor toys, and why they were important to mention in our top resources.
While we have some simple ways of working on this (e.g. straw in soapy water) we also use a number of different toys too. One of the benefits of Oral motor toys are that they can be very easy to use, versatile and small – this allows use wherever required. These oral motor toys can support a number of areas. Toys include:
Lip Whistles – provide a low buzzing/humming sound and give some vibrating feedback to the user too.
Dino flyers – These guys will fly off, if the user blows hard and long enough through the straw.
Mixed oral motor toys (min trumpet, duck whistle, plane whistle, train whistle, bendy straws, bird whistles, space ship whistle). These mixed toys are a great way to provide some low noise feedback (through blowing), sustained breath control and with the variety of options novelty for oral motor toys and regulation.
In addition, curly straws and clear rubber tubing can be really effective in providing some durable and ‘high pressure’ blowing support. Importantly, these are simple, low cost and can be used with bubbles, water, paint and other oral motor activities.
The above toys are ones we often use in clinic, but a number of organisations such as Sensory tools Australia, Sensabilities and Windmill Toys have a variety of oral motor toys for all children. The toys can help support in the following ways:
Breath control – Some children have some difficulty with efficient breathing, particularly adapting breathing patterns for different activities. Many of these children often present with ‘high arousal’ and difficulty self regulating. Activities such as bubble volcano or bubble monsters (blowing through a straw into a container of bubbles) can be used to address controlled breathing and depth of breathing (i.e. the deeper and longer the blow, the greater the height of the bubbles).
Regulation – as mentioned in breath control, some children have difficulty with modulating their arousal levels and breath control, and oral motor activities can help support this. Some children with high arousal can be very shallow and inefficient breathers. As such, whistles, bubble activities, straw painting and balloon games can provide ‘obvious visual feedback’ to support longer deeper breathing.
Awareness of the mouth – For some children, body awareness is an issue that impacts a number of areas of everyday life. In particular, children who have a low awareness of their mouth, muscles around their mouth and potentially low muscle tone in mouth muscles, can have difficulty with functional mouth skills (e.g. sucking, blowing, ability to feel a ‘dirty’ mouth). Oral motor toys can provide increased activity for the mouth, supporting sensory awareness and working on mouth muscle tone and endurance.
Again have a look through our ‘Chewing through the facts’ article to discover why oral motor regulation and meeting these needs can be important for many children. If you think your child may benefit from some of the above reasons for the use of oral motor toys, check out these websites which have a comprehensive list of oral motor toys.