5 Tips to Improve Oral Motor Skills

Sensory Ideas to Improve Oral Motor Skills

Do any of these statements sound familiar?

  • My kid chews on the collar of their shirt
  • I notice when they are working on a project, they start to drool
  • Their mouth is always open
  • He does not like to eat certain textures of foods

Here are 5 simple tips to help improve your child’s oral motor skills. These activities help to improve their lip, cheek, mouth and tongue strength and control. 

1.     Bubbles

Blow them, pop them, clap them, jump for them, follow them with your eyes, eat them…possibilities are endless.

2.   Straws and Cups

Using straws not only works on developing the muscles of the lips, mouth and cheeks, it is also a calming action. Taking water breaks when you notice your kiddo is having a difficult moment can reset them almost immediately. 

Using open cups at mealtime is a great way to develop facial muscles and independence. Using thick liquids like yogurt or apple sauce are a great way to practice both of these skills.

3.   Chewy and Crunchy Foods

Oral stimulation or sensory input can help children change the level of alertness.  Chewy food like dried fruit, licorice, gum, bagels can help your child to become more calm. Crunchy foods like pretzels, crackers, apples, popcorn and veggies are more alerting. 

4.   Motorized Toothbrush

Make brushing your child’s teeth more fun and effective. Let them choose what character or color toothbrush they want. Not only are motorized toothbrushes more effective, they help to develop facial muscles and awareness which may help those picky eaters

5.   Gum & Lollipops

Chewing gum can help organize and calm a kiddo, especially during activities like homework. Lollipops are a great way to work on strengthening on the lips and tongue.

*Always supervise these items until you know your child can handle them safely.


Jill Loftus, MS, OTR/L is a practicing pediatric occupational therapist and parenting coach focused on enabling and empowering children and families. Her 15 year career working in schools, homes, clinics and the community has spurred her passion for providing child development education in a meaningful and creative way. She provides a variety of services, blogs and a weekly 5 tips newsletter that you can learn more about by visiting www.honestot.com or follow us on www.facebook.com/HonestOT/