Parents may become concerned if their children begin to exhibit behaviors that they should have grown out of long ago. One such habit children often struggle to overcome is oral sensory seeking behavior. In this article, we will explore the definition of oral sensory seeking and what to do about it. Here are several steps you can take to reduce or eliminate it completely.
Newborns often utilize every tool at their disposal to experience the world around them. One such tool involves putting non-food objects in their mouths as a means to determine the size, weight, and texture of that object. However, this behavior should only last until the child is about two years old. If they continue to compulsively put objects in their mouths past that point in time, they’re engaging in oral sensory seeking behavior.
Why Sensory Seeking Behavior Is a Problem
According to Griffin Occupational Therapy, children who may also have developmental delays, autism, and learning disabilities often exhibit oral sensory seeking behavior. Children with this problem may chew on their sleeves or other non-food items.
How To Spot Oral Sensory Seeking Behavior
There are several ways to spot oral sensory seeking behavior. Common indicators include:
- Sucking and chewing on toys
- Chewing on their collar or sleeves
- Putting pencils in their mouths
- Biting their nails or sucking their fingers
What Parents Should Do About It
When considering the definition of oral sensory seeking and what to do about it, there are a few factors to keep in mind. As we mentioned earlier, children naturally place objects in their mouths. However, it’s only necessary to step in if the child continues the habit beyond age two.
As the pediatric specialists at South Shore Health report, it’s best to seek guidance from a pediatrician. Your pediatrician may diagnose other medical issues that could be sources of oral sensory seeking behavior or refer an occupational therapist. In the absence of such diagnoses, the best solution is to gently remind children not to chew on objects that do not belong in their mouths. The goal is to build up an awareness of that behavior so that the child can take action to cease it.
Often, you’ll see oral sensory seeking behavior among children who suck their thumbs or fingers. This can happen because the sucking habit reinforces the oral sensory seeking behavior, and vice-versa. By removing the desire to suck their thumbs or fingers, you can then focus solely on the oral sensory seeking. This is easier to treat because it’s a behavior in which children engage when they’re conscious and awake—as opposed to thumb- or finger-sucking, which may happen when they’re asleep. Out of the varying approaches concerning how to stop finger-sucking, TGuard is an excellent first step that will allow you to focus more easily on controlling the oral sensory seeking behavior.
“Oral Sensory Seeking – Why is my Child Still Putting Things in Their Mouth?” from Griffin Occupational Therapy
“More, More, Too Much: Understanding Sensory Seeking” from South Shore Health