It’s dinner time. You’re all eating around the table, and suddenly your child’s plate is almost empty! But alas… all of the food is still in their mouth, stuffed to the brim. How do you prevent an overstuffed mouth in your child? Read on to find out!
What is Overstuffing?
Overstuffing is when your child places too much food in their mouth or eats too quickly affecting their ability to adequately chew and swallow the food. This may lead to gagging, choking, spitting the food out, or pocketing the food.
What is Food Pocketing?
Food pocketing is when your child stores food in their cheeks, lips, or on the roof of their mouth (hard palate).
Why do Children Overstuff?
Overstuffing/pocketing of food may be related to delayed oral motor skills and weakness in the muscles of the mouth including the jaw, tongue, lips, cheeks. This makes it difficult for the child to coordinate chewing the food well enough to swallow. It can also make it difficult to clear food from lips/cheeks which can lead to pocketing of food.
If a child has sensory processing difficulties, they may be unable to recognize how much food is in their mouth or not even realize it is there! You might also see texture sensitivities or aversions with sensory processing difficulties.
How can I help my child pace themselves while eating?
- Provide small portions of food. Instead of placing full servings on the plate during mealtime, place a few smaller pieces onto their plate. Once they have chewed and swallowed the food on their plate, offer some more. This will assist them in learning to pace themselves.
- Use fun utensils during meals or snacks. Your child can “cut” their own banana with a child safe knife, use small cookie cutters for their sandwich, a smaller fork or spoon, or little animal toothpicks to pick up the small bites. This allows for the child to slow down their rate of intake as well as further develop crucial fine motor skills.
- Offer alerting foods during meals which may include: crunchy food, cold food, sparkling water, sour food, flavorful food. This will provide more input into your child’s mouth which can help them better register how much food is in their mouth as opposed to a soft texture food with a bland flavor.
- Use a mirror! This will give your child visual feedback if their mouth is too full. You can have them check by saying “Ahhh,” after swallowing to determine if they need to swallow again to clear all of their food.
- Alternate bites of food and sips of liquid. This can help slow the intake of food and offer a liquid “wash” to clear some residue before taking another bite.
If you feel your child may benefit from a feeding therapy evaluation by one of our licensed pediatric feeding therapists, please contact your nearest Kids Place location.