Learning to Eat and the development of Oral Motor skills.
Learning to eat is an essential developmental milestone for babies and young children. It involves the development of oral motor skills, which are the abilities your little ones require for the movement and coordination of the mouth and tongue when they are eating and speaking. In this blog post, we will explore the oral motor skills development that takes place during the process of learning to eat.
What Oral Motor Skills are needed for eating?
The first step in learning to eat involves the development of sucking and swallowing reflexes, which begin in the womb. These reflexes enable babies to obtain milk from the breast or bottle and provide the foundation for further oral motor skills development. As babies grow and mature, they begin to develop the skills required to chew and manipulate solid foods.
Chewing is a complex process that involves the coordination of various muscles in the mouth and jaw. The tongue, cheeks, and lips work together to move food around the mouth and break it down into smaller pieces. The muscles of the jaw work to grind and crush food, while the tongue and saliva work to moisten and soften it.
Manipulating food requires the development of fine motor skills in the hands and fingers, which are essential for self-feeding. As babies learn to grasp and manipulate utensils such as our Dip Weaning Pre-Spoon and our Sip Open cup, both of which have been specifically designed to develop fine motor skills, and use finger foods their hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills develop.
Did you know that the development of oral motor skills is closely linked to speech development?
Well it sure is! Your little one uses the same muscles for eating and chewing as they use in their speech production. As babies learn to manipulate food and develop their oral
motor skills, they also develop the ability to produce different sounds and learn to communicate through language. You’ll notice that as your little ones journey into eating progresses,
they actually become more vocal. Babbling and gurgling and making more exploratory sounds. This is such an exciting phase.
Oral motor skills development is a complex process that requires time and practice. It’s essential for parents to provide their babies with a variety of textures and flavors. This help them develop their skills. Soft foods like pureed fruits and vegetables are great for early weaning stages. However, they do not really help the oral motor skills to develop. This is why I always love to recommend a combination approach to starting solids.
Use a pre-loaded Weaning spoon, such as our Dip pre-spoon, with a puree or mash on them and offer it along with finger foods for exploration
and oral motor stimulation. It is the harder, chewier foods like steamed / cooked finger foods that help little ones become more proficient at chewing and developing those skills. Your little ones eating skills will not be fully developed until 24-36mths of age, so do remember to have patience. Development takes time.
In conclusion, learning to eat is an essential developmental milestone for babies and young children. It involves the development of oral motor skills, which are critical for the movement and coordination of the mouth and tongue during eating and speaking. The development of these skills is closely linked to speech development and requires time and practice. As parents, it’s our responsibility to provide our babies with a variety of textures and flavors to help them develop their skills and reach their full potential.