Some children chew non-food items which can cause damage to their clothes or toys. They may chew their fingers or nails to the point where the skin looks sore. Sound familiar to you? Are you thinking of a child who exhibits this behaviour?
Chewing is a sensory need as much as it is a habit. Basically. chewing is used as a way to cope and to self-regulate. It may help the child to stay focused. Chewing provides pressure to the gums and oral motor sensory input.
Each child's sensory needs are individual so it is important to pin point the exact reason for the need to chew. But here are some ideas that might help to reduce the need to chew!
A wide range of foods
By eating foods with a variety of textures, the child may have their sensory needs met through their diet. Chewy foods like bagels, dried fruit, fruit chews mean that the jaw has to work harder. Crunchy foods like carrot, raw veg and nuts also provide good sensory feedback.
Other sensory activities
The child's sensory needs might be met through doing different activities such as using a wobble board, squeezing dough, climbing at the playground or playing catch with bean bags.
If the child is experiencing anxiety or worry, they are likely to chew more frequently. There are many strategies to encourage a child to manage their worries in alternative ways. It's important to be mindful of the child's age and ability as some will respond better to understanding the physical reasons for worrying, whereas others will prefer social stories or a worry box.
Some children NEED to chew and there are lots of safe (and groovy!) chewing toys specially made for kids. We all have different needs that need to be met to help us to function at our best, after all.