Do your kids like to snack constantly? Mine are allllllways hungry. Always. So, when I pulled out this Animal Cracker Proprioception activity that we designed to address oral motor sensory processing, they were just a bit excited. Make that completely-jumping-and-cheering-excited. Anything that involves play and food makes the Best Thing of the Day column.
We used animal crackers and a couple of straws to provide calming oral input. This was an easy way to add in an oral motor strengthening exercise, too.
Oral Sensory Processing
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Sensory processing allows us to take in information from our environment and process it appropriately. Typically, we adjust to sensory input and adjust appropriately. Sensory input to a person’s mouth is no exception. We must process movement of the tongue, textures of food, adjust to drinking liquids, monitor and adjust the force required to bite and chew, and move our mouth/lips/tongue in order to speak.
When there is a difficulty with oral sensory processing, a child might drool excessively, chew on their shirt or hair, have difficulty eating certain foods, have trouble moving their tongue to swallow all of their food, show difficulty removing all of the food from a utensil, be unable to use a straw, refuse certain food textures or tastes, or have trouble with articulation in speech. Here are tips for kids who chew on everything.
Children with proprioceptive sensory needs may present as benefiting from calming, resistive activities. Sucking from a straw is one activity that involves the oral input and is typically effective in calming a overactive child.
Oral Motor Sensory Processing Exercise
For this calming activity, we used just a few items. Some brightly colored straws were the perfect tool for adding proprioceptive input to the mouth. I love the bright straws for their high contrast and tendency to draw the eyes toward the mid-line. When we added the learning portion to this activity, attention and precision were important so the bright colors helped.
You can find many fun oral sensory activities out there that involve blowing as a sensory processing activity. The one that we did used straw sucking as a way to add proprioceptive input. When a child sucks on a straw, their lips are forced to close while their cheek muscles tighten and the tongue retracts. This activity would be beneficial to a child who needs to build strength and endurance of the cheeks and muscles or a child who demonstrates tongue protrusion.
With the straw, I had my preschooler suck in order to pick up an animal cracker. She placed the straw flush on the cracker and sucked in order to pick the cracker off of the table. This was a real workout for her! She was able to figure out that turning the animal cracker over so that she placed the straw against it’s back side made the task easier. Sucking the animal cracker up off the table in order to move it provided a lot of calming proprioceptive input.
To grade this activity down (to make it easier for kids who are building their oral motor musculature and can not yet pick up the animal cracker), try smaller/lightweight crackers like Annie’s Homegrown Bunny crackers. These were much easier to move with the straw yet still provided sensory feedback to the mouth.
To add a bit of learning and motor planning to this activity, I provided a few small shape containers to the table. Ours were from a local dollar store, but these shape sorter shapes would work perfectly for addressing shape discrimination and actually comes in more options than the shapes that we talked about with our containers. We use these containers as lunchbox compartments but the bright colors and shapes made a great shape recognition activity for her. She is working on identifying a triangle and rectangle and often times gets the two shapes mixed up. When she was doing this activity however, she was able to move the animal crackers and bunny crackers to the right shapes.
We practiced a bunch or rounds with this activity, because she loved it so much!
Looking for more ways to use small crackers in learning and play? Try these ideas:
How Many Cows on the Farm Counting Game from Life Over C’s
Gold Fish Measurement Math Game from Learning 2 Walk
Find the Letters Snack Sheet from Still Playing School
Make Learning Fun: Math Facts with Teddy Grahams from Crafty Mama in ME
Crushed Rainbow Cereal Process Art from Play Dough & Popsicles
Teach Preschoolers Fractions from Preschool Powol Packets
Feed The Penguin from Adventures of Adam
Jelly Bean Maths Game from Mum in the Madhouse
How Many Goldfish in the Bowl Game from Play & Learn Everyday
Cheerios Number Tracing from Schooling a Monkey
10 Fun Games with ABC Pretzels from Books and Giggles
Fish Cracker Color Patterns from The Kindergarten Connection
Animal Cracker Oral Motor Exercise with Shape Identification from Sugar Aunts
You’ll love these oral processing activities:
Plastic egg Boats