Resistance Resistance is a measure of the amount of pressure or force required to bite through a piece of food, and chew it into small pieces that can be swallowed easily. Foods with low resistance require very little chewing because they tend to dissolve easily in the mouth. Those with medium resistance are still relatively soft but require some chewing. Foods that create the most resistance require strong, sustained chewing. Many require a grinding motion of the teeth and chewing on both sides of the mouth.
1 – Less
Veggie Stix, graham crackers, French fries, well-cooked vegetable dices, peaches, kiwi
2 – More
Hard cookies, pretzels, bread crusts, firm toast, oranges, pineapple, fish, chicken
3 – Most
Raw vegetables, bagels, beef, pork, dried fruit, raisins
Sensory Input Sensory input is a subjective measure of the amount and type of taste and proprioceptive input received by the mouth during biting and chewing. Sensory inputs of crunchy, spicy, sour, bitter, and cold provide the strongest inputs to the oral sensory system. Foods that provide a strong sensory input are often easier to bite and chew because they provide more sensory information for the jaw, tongue, lips, and cheeks.
1 – High
Veggie Stixs, pretzels, chips, raw carrots, ice chips, pickles, tart apple
2 – Medium
Sharp cheddar cheese, saltine crackers, goldfish crackers, hard cookies
3 – Low
Mild cheddar cheese, graham cracker, sweet apple
Shape (Ease of Lateral Placement)
The shape of the food strongly affects the ease with which a piece of food can be placed between the side teeth for biting. This is a very important feature for a child who is learning to bite and chew. A wider shape may require biting with the central incisors. If the child is unable to use the tongue to transfer food from the center of the mouth to the side, chewing may be impossible or too challenging. The side teeth are stronger and require less precise holding and bite-through than the central incisors. Thus, foods that are narrower can be placed more precisely on the side for biting and chewing. The shape of many foods can be alternated by cutting them narrower or wider.
Veggie Stixs, goldfish crackers, animal crackers, long thin pretzels, raw carrot strips
Rectangular graham cracker pieces, thin rectangular cookies, 1 inch toast strips
Square graham cracker pieces, large round cookie, 1/2 piece of toast or sandwich
Texture Scatter Texture scatter refers to the amount of dispersion of pieces, or "scatter" that typically occurs when an individual bites into a piece of food and prepares to chew it. Foods with less scatter retain their basic form as a piece is bitten off. As the food is chewed, pieces stick together, and bolus formation is relatively easy. These are often foods that absorb saliva well and are of a single consistency. Foods with a high degree of scatter break into many small pieces that don't bind together easily. A child with poor coordination of tongue and cheek movement may find individual pieces scattered randomly on the surface of the tongue. Gagging, choking, and food refusal may result from this type of scatter.
Veggie Stixs, animal crackers, graham crackers, saltine crackers, cooked fruit and vegetables
Goldfish crackers, Ritz crackers, bread, toast, sandwiches, hamburger on bread, popcorn
Consistency Food consistency is related to food texture. In this context it refers to the number of individual textures that are contained within the food that is offered for biting and chewing. The easiest foods have a single consistency. More difficult foods require the integration of more sensory information during biting, and differential handling of several different consistencies. A multiple consistency food such as an unpeeled apple requires the differential swallowing of the juice, chewing of the pulp, and greater chewing of the peel.
Veggie Stix, sugar cookies, chips, meat, fish
Cookies with nuts, peeled apple, orange slices, watermelon, cooked peas and carrots
Unpeeled apple, grapes
Transfer Transfer refers to the amount of chewing needed by a specific food and the choice to transfer the food to the opposite side of the mouth for more chewing. Some foods dissolve or fall apart and are chewed on only one side of the mouth. Other foods retain enough shape that they can be transferred to the other side if desired. Still other foods require extended chewing and a grinding motion that is accomplished most easily when the food is transferred from one side of the mouth to the other.
Veggie Stixs, cookies, crackers, soft cheese, soft cooked vegetables and fruits,
Raisins, raw fruit, sandwich, fish
Meat, raw vegetables, caramel candy
Overall Difficulty Level The overall level of difficulty for biting and chewing is a logical and intuitive blending of all of the separate characteristics of the food. This is a very general rating since different features will make biting and chewing easier or more difficult for a specific child. For example, some children will find foods that have a high resistance and sensory input much easier than foods with a low input. Low input foods that have a high texture scatter may be very difficult. Other children find cookies and soft crackers at the easy level, and foods that have more resistance extremely difficult. This is an attempt to look at the overall characteristics of the food itself. Many foods are listed with a range of difficulty (i.e. easy–medium) because of specific variants of the type or brand of food.
Raisins, beef, raw vegetables
Feeder and Environmental Variables The way in which the feeder creates the mealtime environment, and offers the food will influence the child's sensorimotor skills for biting and chewing. When food is cut in a shape and size that fits the child's mouth and emerging skills, biting and chewing movements are learned with greater ease. When the feeder takes time to position the child so that the body is well supported by the lap or chair, the child's mouth moves more skillfully. A child who has difficulty with the sensory properties of food, will learn to handle new foods more easily during or after activities that improve overall sensory processing.
Foods with multiple textures. Foods which consist of more than one texture are very challenging to children. Some foods have two or more textures which can be visibly observed; others tend to produce extra juice or saliva when they are chewed. The child must swallow the liquid and extra saliva produced by the food while continuing to chew the more solid parts. Often children with mild difficulties in oral-motor skill will drool or loose liquid when they eat combination foods. Foods which could be given at snack time include: unpeeled apple wedges; orange wedges; raisins; jello with fruit chunks, non-mushy dry cereal such as Cheerios or small shredded wheat squares with milk; salad with pieces of different raw vegetables.
Foods which require extended chewing. Foods which require extended chewing are often resisted by children with mild feeding problems. At home they are often given softer meats or no meats or raw vegetables at all because they refuse them. Foods which could be given at snack time to increase chewing skill include: raw carrots, raw celery, beef jerky, strips of rare roast beef, steak, or other firm meat. Although candy and other sweet foods should be discouraged as a regular snack, liquorice twists and sugar-free bubble gum are wonderful for encouraging extended chewing, and chewing without drooling.
Foods which can be served in many sensory variations. Foods which can be served in many different taste and texture combinations lend themselves beautifully to work on sensory discrimination and language. They also provide ways of making smaller, more gradual changes for children who are resistant to eating new foods. Foods which could be given at snack time to focus on sensory changes in taste and texture include: crackers + peanut butter; crackers + Swiss cheese; crackers + cheddar cheese; crackers + cream cheese; crackers + cream cheese + jelly. Or one could take a theme of "cheese" and vary the type of cracker used (i.e. Ritz cracker, soda cracker, rice cake, rye krisp).
Foods which encourage playful exploration. Exploration with food is a common activity with young children in the 18-36 month age range. Children enjoy hiding pieces of food in different parts of the mouth, feeling the mouth stuffed with food, playing with differing amounts of food in the mouth etc. Foods which encourage exploration include: raisins, cereal pieces such as Cheerios and Grape Nuts. Chewing sugar-free bubble gum also develops playful exploration.
Oral Motor Diet
Lotion-on body and face
Chap stick on lips
Nuk brush on
inside of mouth
outside of mouth
sides of tongue
left side molars
right side molars
5.Others-massagers and toothettes
Oral Motor Box should include:
Toothettes, massagers, electric toothbrush, flavored tongue depressors, finger-brush (infra-dent), flavored sprays, lotion, chap stick, chew tubes.