Oral Motor Exercises

Oral motor exercises and activities for kids

There are many reasons to incorporate oral motor exercises into your therapy plan. Here, we are covering the reasoning behind several oral motor exercises and strategies to work on mobility and functioning in the mouth, tongue, lips, and jaw.

These oral motor exercises are kid-friendly and improve coordination, strength, and mobility of the mouth to facilitate feeding, oral discrimination, or sensory needs.

Why Oral motor Exercises?

When we talk about oral motor exercises, it’s important to know why we are considering specific exercises. When it comes to oral motor exercises, we are striving to improve the functioning of the mouth, jaw, lips, cheeks, and tongue so that the child can demonstrate coordination needed for sound production and articulation. Other issues can arise in manipulation (chewing, movement of foods and liquids, tolerance of various textures, and swallowing food and liquids).

When it comes to feeding issues, there can be a question of whether the feeding problems are a result of sensory processing challenges and/or oral motor considerations. Check out this resource for more information on pediatric feeding and oral motor issues or sensory issues that impact feeding abilities.

Kids who struggle with feeding may be impacted by oral awareness and oral discrimination. These skills enable us to both be aware of the motions of the muscles and joints of the mouth to enable positioning for oral sound creation as well as movements to control and mobilize the chewing and manipulation of foods and drinks of various textures.

Oral discrimination is essential for safety, efficiency, and function when eating.  When oral discrimination is a challenge, children can have resulting food aversions, be unaware of food in their mouth, or not be able to tolerate certain types of food textures, tastes, or temperatures.  They may have difficulty with managing various textures and end up with messy eating during meals. Oral discrimination also effects skills like speech and tooth brushing.

Start here by reading more about the development of oral motor skills. Typical development of oral motor skills is an important consideration when it comes to self-feeding and movements of the mouth, tongue, and lips in tolerating new foods or textures in feeding.

Specific reasons for incorporating oral motor exercises into a therapy program may include issues with the following movements:

The oral motor exercises listed below can offer additional opportunities for strength and coordination of oral motor skills, as well as heavy work proprioception through the mouth as calming input to organize the body.

Oral Motor Exercises

These activities are not the only ones that can be done to address oral discrimination issues.  Additionally, it’s important to know that therapists understand that oral discrimination is just one piece of the feeding puzzle.  Considerations such as tone, sensory processing, and oral-sensory exploration as well as many other components make up feeding.

Tips for Oral Motor Exercises

  1. These specific oral motor exercises can be selected based on the specific needs of the child. Each exercise many not work for all individuals. And, the exercises should be modified as needed to grade up or down (make them easier or harder) based on the needs of the individual.
  2. For each exercise listed below, add a repetition to complete the task. Add in a specific number of repetitions.
  3. Add the number of days these exercises should be completed each week.
  4. Incorporate function whenever possible. Working on feeding? Add real foods of interest. Use utensils or cups when possible. Incorporate the occupation of play to make the exercises motivating and fun.
  5. Consult with a pediatric occupational therapist!

Oral Motor Exercise Ideas

Remember that not all of these exercises are needed for every child’s specific needs. Pick and choose the exercises that meet the needs of the child you are working with.

  • Bring their hands and fingers to his or her mouth and lips.
  • Play tongue Simon Says with a mirror.
  • Play the “hokey pokey” with your tongue and cheeks.
  • Try messy play with food.
  • Encourage tolerance of a spoon or other feeding utensil in different parts of the mouth.
  • Open and close your mouth.
  • Move your tongue from side to side.
  • Press your lips together and then smack your lips apart.
  • Explore different types of utensil textures (plastic, metal, plastic covered, etc.)
  • Hold and play with a toothbrush, bringing the brush to their mouth and face.
  • Encourage mirror play, identifying parts of the mouth.
  • Add rhythmical, whole- body play with therapy balls, uneven surfaces such as trampolines or crash pads to improve proprioceptive input. (Great for core strengthening and stability needed for feeding, teeth brushing, etc.)
  • Explore mouth play with teething toys and tools.
  • Explore use of teething toys and tools in different positioning (prone, supine, side lying, etc.)
  • Use rhythmical music along with tapping the cheeks or lips.
  • Offer frozen fruit on a tongue depressor. Try this recipe for frozen fruit skewers.
  • Chew a straw.
  • Pucker your lips in a pretend kiss.
  • Blow a party noise maker.
  • Blow a kazoo.
  • Use a straw to pick up squares of paper and drop them into a bowl.
  • Make fish lips.
  • Apply Chapstick (scented or unscented) and press your lips together as you move your lips from side to side.
  • Puff up your cheeks.
  • Smack your lips.
  • Whisper the sounds the letters of the alphabet make from A-Z. Notice how your mouth moves. Or, spell out your name or other words by whispering the sounds the letters make.
  • Blow bubbles
  • Blow through a straw to move a cotton ball or small craft pom pom along a line. Can you move it through a maze?
  • Freeze water to a popsicle stick and lick or suck until the ice melts.
  • Pour water into an ice cube tray. Add popsicle sticks to create a cube pop. Lick and suck until the ice melts.
  • Scoop peanut butter onto a spoon. Lick it off with the tip of your tongue.
  • Point your tongue to the end of your nose. Hold it there as long as you can.
  • Point your tongue to your chin. Hold it there as long as you can.
  • Push your tongue into your right cheek. Hold it there and then press the end of your tongue into your left cheek.
  • Count your teeth using your tongue. Touch each tooth with the tip of your tongue.
  • Chew gum. Can you blow a bubble?
  • Deep breathing mouth exercises. Use these printable deep breathing cards.

Themed Oral Motor Exercises

You may want to check out these themed oral motor exercises for development of motor skills in various points throughout the year. These themed exercise can be added to weekly therapy themes to increase motivation and carry through. Here are several themed oral motor exercises for kids:

Deep breathing exercise cards for oral motor skills and proprioceptive input through the mouth and lips

Want printable oral motor exercises? Grab the Deep Breathing Exercise Cards. The pack of deep breathing cards includes oral motor exercises for heavy proprioceptive input through the mouth, tongue, and lips, and oral motor activities using different themes, totaling 113 different exercises.

The Oral Motor Exercises can be done anytime, using just the mouth. These strategies offer exceptional proprioceptive input through the lips, tongue, and cheeks, making a calming heavy work activity that can be used in sensory diets to help children achieve a calm and ready state of regulation.

Click here to get your copy of the Deep Breathing Exercise Cards.

Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20 years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

Plastic Egg Boats with Oral Motor Sensory Input

Easter activity with plastic easter eggs
These plastic Easter egg boats is a Spring occupational therapy activity to add to your line-up this year. If you’ve got a few plastic Easter eggs on hand and some play dough, you are ready to go for Easter STEM that challenges kids to explore fine motor skills in STEM activities AND incorporates wind power with calming oral motor sensorimotor input and got our boats moving, sensory style!  
 
Hey now, there’s an idea: There’s STEM for science, technology, engineering, and math, right?  And there’s STEAM with the added component of art…what if we added a sensory component to the STEM/STEAM mix?? It could be called STEMS or STEAMS!  I think it’s what the world needs: bring the science/math/art/technology, etc full circle with whole body movements and the underlying systems of sensory processing for integrated learning through the senses.  Genius I tell ya!
 
STEMS: Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and SENSORY 
STEAMS: Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math, and SENSORY
 
You heard it here first!
 
Back to our world-changing egg boats.
 
 

 

Plastic egg boats with an oral sensory motor component for proprioception input to the mouth.
 

Plastic Easter Egg Boats

Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.
 
This is an easy activity to throw together:  Grab some plastic eggs, straws (every childhood needs brightly colored straws), card stock, tape, and play dough.  Fill one half of the plastic egg with play dough.  Stick a piece of straw into the play dough.  Tape a triangle of card stock to the straw.  Done.
 
Plastic egg boats with an oral sensory motor component for proprioception input to the mouth.
 
NOW:  Here’s the fun part.  Fill a bin with water and see if they will float.  If you and the kids have filled the plastic eggs
to the brim with play dough, they will not. Alas, you’ve got some capsized eggs.  However, with some help from your STEM noggin, you can remove some of the play dough so it’s just a bit at the bottom of the egg.  See how they float now.  
 
Move the play dough up the sides of the egg a bit more and see if you can get the boats to stay upright.  Now we’re talkin’!
 
Plastic egg boats with an oral sensory motor component for proprioception input to the mouth.
 

Oral Motor Sensory Activity Wind Boats

So.  You’re wondering how this might be a state-of-the-art sensory-tastic STEMS activity (see, it just rolls off the tounge, right??!!)
 
Here’s what we did to add a sensory oral motor component to this activity.  Use one of those bright and colorful straws
to add a bit of wind power to your egg boats.  See how much breath it takes to move the boats across the water while providing proprioception to the mouth.  The heavy work of the lips is an effort that is calming to kiddos who seek out sensory input through chewing or biting.  
 
Here is more information on the development of oral motor skills. Oral motor skills play a role in calming regulatory sensory input and also can be an issue in feeding.
 
Have a few boat races with friends as you both blow the boats across a large bin of water. 
 
Looking for more propriocetive input to the mouth?  Try a smaller straw or this top-secret Occupational Therapist trick:  pinch the straw so it’s flat the whole length of the straw.  Now you’ve got a power proprioception tool for oral sensory motor input! 

 

Plastic egg boats with an oral sensory motor component for proprioception input to the mouth.
 
Plastic egg boats with an oral sensory motor component for proprioception input to the mouth.
 
 

What are your favorite ways to address oral motor sensory needs?  Let us know if you try these WORLD-CHANGING plastic Easter egg boats!  

Spring Fine Motor Kit

Score Fine Motor Tools and resources and help kids build the skills they need to thrive!

Developing hand strength, dexterity, dexterity, precision skills, and eye-hand coordination skills that kids need for holding and writing with a pencil, coloring, and manipulating small objects in every day task doesn’t need to be difficult. The Spring Fine Motor Kit includes 100 pages of fine motor activities, worksheets, crafts, and more:

Spring fine motor kit set of printable fine motor skills worksheets for kids.
  • Lacing cards
  • Sensory bin cards
  • Hole punch activities
  • Pencil control worksheets
  • Play dough mats
  • Write the Room cards
  • Modified paper
  • Sticker activities
  • MUCH MORE

Click here to add this resource set to your therapy toolbox.

Spring Fine Motor Kit
Spring Fine Motor Kit: TONS of resources and tools to build stronger hands.

Grab your copy of the Spring Fine Motor Kit and build coordination, strength, and endurance in fun and creative activities. Click here to add this resource set to your therapy toolbox.

Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20 years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

CARDBOARD TURKEY CRAFT

Cardboard turkey craft that doubles as a juicebox cover and an oral sensory tool

Turkey crafts are all around this time of year!  This fun cardboard turkey is a great Thanksgiving activity that doubles as a therapy tool for kids. It is a juicebox cover, making it a fun way for kids to use their little cardboard turkey, but it also is a fine motor craft AND a way to help kids regulate by adding proprioceptive input through oral motor sensory input. We’ll get into more on this below.

Cardboard Turkey

While taking the time to run out and purchase craft materials can be difficult this time of year, and adding that extra expense isn’t always a possibility, using materials that you have on hand for kids crafts is the way to go. This cardboard turkey is a cardboard tube craft. We used a cut paper towel roll for the turkey craft and had some of the other materials in our craft closet.

For this cardboard turkey craft you’ll need just a few materials:

Amazon affiliate links included below.

  • Cardboard roll (paper towel roll)
  • Feathers (these are available at the dollar store, or on Amazon, but you could substitute these with paper cut feathers, too.)
  • Red and orange paper (or draw them on with a marker)
  • Googly eyes
  • Glue
  • Tape
  • Juice box
Love this cardboard turkey craft. It's a Thanksgiving Turkey Juicebox Cover that kids will love to use.

Glue those details onto the cardboard roll and this turkey is ready to make someone smile!

Cute cardboard turkey craft, a Thanksgiving Turkey Juicebox Cover for kids.

Colored feathers and googly eyes, along with a couple of little crafting scraps made a simple cardboard tube into a party-friendly turkey… just in time for Thanksgiving dinner!

If you are just making a cardboard turkey craft and skipping the juice box cover portion of this Thanksgiving craft, you could definitely use a recycled toilet paper roll to make a cute toilet paper roll turkey craft. But, if you are going to make this into a juicebox cover, I would go with using a paper towel roll instead.

So, let’s discuss the benefits to making this turkey craft into a Thanksgiving juice box cover…


Turkey Juice Box Cover

This cardboard turkey would work without the juice box part, but we added that as an oral sensory input opportunity to allow children to get a little calming sensory input through the straw. Plus, it’s a great way for children to see their handiwork in action right on the juice box.

 To make the cardboard turkey into a juice box cover, cut the paper tube with one cut strait down.  Wrap the cardboard tube around the juice box and secure with clear tape.  Gather your colorful feathers and tape in place on the back of the juice box.  

Kids can make this cardboard turkey craft and gain organizing oral sensory benefits from drinking from a small straw.
Tape feathers to the back of a juice box to make a turkey craft for kids at Thanksgiving dinner table.

Oral sensory input with a straw

Sucking is a form of calming sensory input through the mouth, and it’s a way to offer children organizing sensory input in situations when they might have trouble regulating their sensory systems.

Sucking through a small straw like a coffee stirrer can be calming and provide organizing input, a juice box straw is an easily accessible sensory tool that might be overlooked.

When kids such through that small straw, they are getting heavy work, or proprioception through the mouth and jaw. This is very organizing for children as it allows them to become aware of proprioception (even if they don’t realize it). This deep pressure allows for resistive work in the mouth. It takes effort to suck in through a small straw, and that offers a quick way to add calming input.

Sucking in through a small straw is a way to offer sensory input for sensory seekers, but it’s also a way to support a child’s sensory needs by offering calming and resistive oral motor input.

Now, the parents reading this are probably thinking the same thing that I immediately think of when I see a small child with a juice box. What happens as soon as that child has a juice box in their hand? They squeeze it and juice streams out of the straw all over the place, right?

Here’s the thing about juice boxes- there is a contradiction on it’s benefits and detriments. The oral sensory input when a child sucks on a juice box straw is perfect for helping kids with sensory needs, and to help them develop oral motor control. However, that squeezable little cardboard box is so easy to squeeze the juice right into a toddler’s mouth.

So, using a juice box cover that invites children to gently hold the juice box, rather than squeezing it in a death grip of streaming, sticky juice is so powerful! Children can use the turkey juice cover we made and either not use their hands to squeeze the juice box OR, they can gently hold the turkey craft and use their mouth to suck the juice. They can gaining oral sensory input and oral motor skills. What a win-win!

Here is more information on oral motor skills development.

Read here to understand the connection between oral motor skills and problem eating.

This is a great resource on pediatric feeding and the differences between sensory issues and oral motor issues.

This oral motor exercise is another way to add proprioceptive input through the mouth as a calming and organizing sensory tool.

Wouldn’t this little guy be perfect for a preschool party or on the kid table at Thanksgiving dinner?

Looking for a few more cardboard turkey crafts?

Try these:  

Recycled Paper Roll Turkey Stamp Craft

Fine Motor Turkey Craft

Thanksgiving Fine Motor Kit

Thanksgiving Fine Motor Kit…on sale now!

Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20 years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

Oral Motor Activities for Summer

summer oral motor activities for kids

Sometimes the kids need an outdoor challenge to get moving and add active play to their day. I’m really excited to add a new activity challenge here on The OT Toolbox website. It’s a fun summer activity for the whole family and can be used to help kids stay active and build skills. This list of oral motor activities for summer is actually a fun way to add calming activities and alerting activities to sensory diets for kids. In fact, this page is part of a series of backyard sensory activities for kids.

Summer oral motor activities for kids to address oral sensory processing needs.

This is such a fun list of Oral Sensory Processing activities that can be done at home right in the backyard this summer.  If you are new to this blog, you might know that I’ve put together a lot of sensory activities here on the website. In particular, you will want to check out all of the summer occupational therapy activities here on The OT Toolbox! 

Today, I’m sharing one part of that backyard sensory play list and outdoor activity challenge. These oral sensory processing activities can be done frugally and right in your backyard.  Getting the kids outside to play is important with all of the research out there telling us that kids are not playing outdoors as much as they used to.  These backyard sensory ideas are sure to bring smiles to your kids’ faces while sneaking in some sensory input.

Oral sensory processing activities that can be done at home this summer right in the backyard with the whole family, great for self-regulation, sensory input, attention, and focus.



Understanding development of oral motor skills is a great place to start when it comes to oral sensory processing concerns. Oral sensory input or challenges with oral motor skills can impact self-regulation in kids as well as improving attention, focus, and adding a calming component to slow down a sensory seeking child. Adding simple oral motor sensory breaks throughout the day can make a big impact in a sensory diet for kids.

Oral Motor Skills and sensory Activities

Try these backyard oral sensory processing activities this summer:

RELATED READ: Animal Cracker Oral Sensory Activity

Affiliate links are included below.

Dandelion Race-  Pick several dandelions and place them into two piles.  Kids can race another child to blow all of the seeds from the dandelions one at a time.  Blowing dandelions is a proprioceptive activity that provides calming sensory input through the mouth.

Balloon Bin-  Help your child blow up a bunch of balloons and place them into a large bin.  An under the bed storage bin works well for this activity. Once the bin is full of  balloons, spray in a bottle of shaving cream.  Mix the balloons and shaving cream around to coat the balloons.  Ask kids to scrape off the shaving cream with their hands to reveal the color of the balloon. This is a tactile sensory activity as well as an oral sensory activity.

Smelly Bubbles- Most kids agree that there is nothing more fun or summery than bubbles.  Try adding a scented component by using scented bubbles.  Blowing bubbles is an oral sensory calming activity for kids.

Kazoo Parade- Gather kids from the neighborhood and pass out a bunch of kazoos. Blowing a kazoo is a sensory activity that provides proprioceptive input through the mouth.  This is a calming activity and can be used for self-regulating or improved focus.  

Hot and Cold Taste Test- Alternate between hot and cold taste sensations in a taste testing game.  Prepare cold foods like ice cubes, chunks of popsicles, and frozen vegetables alongside a hot foods tray like warm applesauce, warm sun tea, and toasted bread.  Set up a roadside stand for taste testing and create a “most liked” survey.

Oral sensory processing activities that can be done at home this summer right in the backyard with the whole family, great for self-regulation, sensory input, attention, and focus.

RELATED READ: Plastic Egg Boats Oral Sensory Activity

more backyard sensory ideas for summer

The Summer OT Bundle is a collection of handouts, activities, and more that build skills this summer. You’ll find everything you need to keep the kids active, learning, and building skills this summer.

You’ll find ideas to use in virtual therapy sessions and to send home as home activities that build skills and power development with a fun, summer theme. Kids will love the Summer Spot It! game, the puzzles, handouts, and movement activities. Therapists will love the teletherapy slide deck and the easy, ready-to-go activities to slot into OT sessions.

Working on building skills this summer? The Summer OT Bundle is for you!

Summer occupational therapy activities bundle

Work on fine motor skills, visual perception, visual motor skills, sensory tolerance, handwriting, scissor skills, and much more so that kids can accomplish self-care tasks, learn, and grow through play all summer long.

This bundle is perfect for the pediatric occupational therapist who needs resources and tools to use in summer therapy sessions, home programs, or extended school year therapy plans.

This bundle is perfect for parents, grandparents, and caregivers looking to provide developmental fine motor activities designed to help kids build skills.

  • Send kids back to school in the Fall without worrying about the “Summer Slide”.
  • Use these materials to work on areas like hand strength, fine motor development, scissor skills, handwriting, pencil control, pencil grasp, sensory play experiences, and much more. Just pull out the pages or activities you need for your child, and develop skills through play!

The Summer OT Bundle includes 19 resources that you can print and use over and over again:

Helping children develop and achieve functional skills this summer was never so easy (or fun!)

Be sure to grab the Summer OT Bundle, a HUGE resource of therapy tools and activities for all things building skills this summer.

Grab the Summer OT Bundle here.

The BONUS is that there is a special added bonus item with the Summer Activities Kit right now. Grab the packet of activities now and get the Summer Sensory Activities Guide to keep the kids moving with the senses all summer long.

More outdoor activity challenges

Bookmark this page for the summer fun. Be sure to check out some of the other backyard sensory activities in this challenge for kids:

More oral motor activities you will love:

Oral motor activities are perfect for addressing self-regulation, focus, attention, coping, and sensory input needs by adding a calming effect or alerting effect. Try some of these oral motor activities:

Oral Motor Exercises with a Cotton Ball Bunny

oral motor exercises with an easter theme using a cotton ball bunny craft

Working on oral motor exercises as a sensory processing strategy for self-regulation, or as an oral motor tool to address physical needs? Ok, so we made a cute little cotton ball bunny to use in an Easter sensory activity as a small world play area to work on fine motor skills with an Easter theme. However, using them in imagination play, but, there are so many oral motor benefits to using these little cotton ball bunnies, too. It was so much fun with that little cotton ball bunny family that we turned it into a big old collection of bunnies! That’s not all…we used them in an oral motor exercise, with major self-regulation benefits. Here is a how to for this Easter craft for kids as well as a run-down on oral motor skill work with everyday items.

oral motor exercises with an easter theme using a cotton ball bunny craft

Oral Motor Exercises with an Easter Theme

Oral motor skills play a big part of feeding. In fact oral motor problems and feeding can impact food preferences as well as ability to eat certain food textures. There is a lot of information on oral motor skills on The OT Toolbox. We’ve covered development of oral motor skills to the physical traits you may see with oral motor issues such as exaggerated jaw movements and issues that arise with stability bite patterns. Here is more information if you are wondering if feeding issues are related to oral motor skills or sensory concerns…or both.

Adding sensory work through the mouth in the form of proprioception is a powerful way to help kids recenter and gain input that is calming and regulating. That input “wakes up” the muscles of the mouth.

There is a mindfulness portion to this oral motor strategy, too. Taking deep breaths is so important in relaxation it brings awareness to your body. In this Easter oral motor activity, kids can blow through a straw to move the cotton ball bunnies while focusing on a static viewpoint at the end of the straw. Talk about centering and regulating! You can even ask the child to breathe in while you count to 5 and then breath out as they move the bunny with the power of their breath.

This oral motor exercise uses straws and cotton ball bunnies for an Easter themed

Oral Motor Exercises for Heavy work

Line up a row of cotton ball bunnies on the table. Give the child a straw and ask them to blow into the straw to push the bunny toward a target. You can ask them to move a certain number of bunnies in a specific amount of time, or they can simply move all of the bunny family with their breath.

I wanted to try a little Easter-themed game with Big Sister.  I put the cotton ball bunnies out on the table, along with the grass and some straws.    She had to blow the bunnies into the grass using a straw.  Scroll below for instructions on how to make the DIY grass matt to use in sensory play activities.

Try using different lengths of straws to change the breath power and amount of deep breathing they need to take. You can also pinch the straw to require more effort in the oral motor therapy idea. Try using different types o straws, too. Some ideas include using a large sports straw like we did in the pictures here, or a coffee stirrer straw. The options are endless and can be means of grading this activity up or down to meet the specific needs of the child.

This is a fun exercise/game for kids with oral-motor problems including poor lip closure, stability of the jaw, or muscle development of the mouth, jaw, and tongue.  Blowing through a straw can also help with sensorimotor integration. 

Older kids who constantly put things into their mouth (pencils, clothing, fingers…) may be seeking oral input/sensorimotor input that their body needs.   

This game is a fun way to work on any of these areas.  Use fatter straws at first and work toward thinner straws for a graded exercise.  If this activity to too difficult for your child with oral-motor or sensorimotor needs, try a smaller item such as a feather or a crafting fuzz ball.  

You could also work on oral motor skills and the proprioceptive heavy work with this Egg Boat activity.

Oral motor exercises like these are beneficial to add heavy work input through the mouth and lips that is calming and regulating.

These oral motor exercises have an Easter theme anc can work on oral sensory needs for self-regulation or oral motor therapy.
Make this Easter fine motor activity using a cotton ball bunny craft. Kids will love to use this in an Easter play activity with preschoolers and toddlers

Fine Motor Skills Activity

These little Easter bunny crafts were perfect to in a fine motor skills activity, too. With a tray, a handful of river rocks, and a DIY crepe paper matt, we made an Easter-themed small world to work on fine motor skills with my littlest one.

My daughter, who was a toddler in these photos, loved to explore and play as she picked up and moved the cotton ball bunnies, the rocks, and small carrots.

Easter play ideas using a DIY sensory mat and cotton ball bunny crafts for kids to use in fine motor work.

To make the grass matt, we used a roll of green crepe paper. It was glued on one side to a sheet of construction paper. I asked my preschooler to snip into the edges of the top side of the crepe paper, so it made a fringed edge. This was a great scissor activity for her.

This Easter play activity turned out to be a fun fine motor activity for toddlers and a fine motor ideas for preschoolers, too! I think the quote from my preschooler was… “Wow, this is cool, Mom!”

This cotton ball bunny craft is so much fun for fine motor skill activities and oral motor skills work.

Easter Play IDEA

Play idea for toddlers- Baby Girl especially loved playing with the little bunnies in an Easter small world play set-up.  She would move the bunnies, stones, and carrots one at a time from the bowl to the grass…and then back again.

Play idea for preschoolers- Big Sister had fun using the bunnies for imagination play, making them go into their garden, lining up the rocks, and making the bunnies steal the carrots.  

Little Guy wanted nothing to do with any of this. I guess there were not any superheroes or bad guys involved.  Cute little bunnies are not his thing 🙂  

This Easter play idea is great for workingon fine motor skills with toddlers and preschoolers.

  We are having a lot of fun with our little bunnies!

Make this cotton ball bunny craft to use in easter themed sensory play and fine motor skills activities

TO make the Cotton Ball Bunny Craft

Making this Easter bunny craft is super easy. We used a glue gun to make sure the pieces were securely attached for sensory play with my toddler. However, regular craft glue would work as well.

You’ll need a cotton ball, white foam sheet, and a pink felt sheet. Cut out two large white ears and two smaller pieces for the inner ear. Use the craft glue to hold these pieces in place. Add gentle pressure to make sure all of the pieces are securely attached.

This bunny craft came together fairly quickly, so I was able to create a whole set of the bunnies.

Then, use them to play!

This Easter craft idea is great for fine motor activities for preschoolers and toddlers with an Easter theme.

Spring Fine Motor Kit

Score Fine Motor Tools and resources and help kids build the skills they need to thrive!

Developing hand strength, dexterity, dexterity, precision skills, and eye-hand coordination skills that kids need for holding and writing with a pencil, coloring, and manipulating small objects in every day task doesn’t need to be difficult. The Spring Fine Motor Kit includes 100 pages of fine motor activities, worksheets, crafts, and more:

Spring fine motor kit set of printable fine motor skills worksheets for kids.
  • Lacing cards
  • Sensory bin cards
  • Hole punch activities
  • Pencil control worksheets
  • Play dough mats
  • Write the Room cards
  • Modified paper
  • Sticker activities
  • MUCH MORE

Click here to add this resource set to your therapy toolbox.

Spring Fine Motor Kit
Spring Fine Motor Kit: TONS of resources and tools to build stronger hands.

Grab your copy of the Spring Fine Motor Kit and build coordination, strength, and endurance in fun and creative activities. Click here to add this resource set to your therapy toolbox.

Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20 years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

Development of Oral Motor Skills

Wondering about oral motor skills development or where to start with oral motor therapy? Below you will find information related to the development of oral motor skills. This oral motor development information can be used to guide oral motor exercises and oral motor skills for feeding. This article was written by The OT Toolbox contributor author, Kaylee Goodrich, OTR.

Use this guide on development of oral motor skills to address oral motor skill therapy and as a guideline to develop oral motor exercises in oral motor therapy.

Development of Oral Motor Skills

Oral motor skills are the finest of the fine motor skills we develop as human beings. It begins in the womb, and is fully developed and established by 3 years of age. Like many other skills we learn, oral motor development is supported by primitive reflexes, postural control and other physiological milestones developing in synchrony. When the synchrony is broken, problems arise.

Oral Motor Skills: Where it all Begins

Oral motor skills start in the womb with the development of primitive reflexes that support feeding at full term. It is important to note that these reflexes develop in the 3rd trimester between the 28th week and the 37th week gestation. When working with a pre-term baby, these reflexes have not developed and successful feeding will require higher levels of support from an outside source.

Reflexes Established by Term:

* Gag reflex
* Rooting reflex
* Transverse Tongue Reflex
* Non-nutritive sucking
* Nutritive sucking
* Coordinated suck/swallow/breath
* Swallow reflex
* Phasic bite reflex
* Palmomental reflex
* Sucking patterns are non-volitional

A full term infant is ready to breast or bottle feed with the above supports in place.

Oral Motor Skills Birth to 3 Months of Age

As reflexes begin to integrate, feeding becomes more and more voluntary, and less of a non-voluntary response to stimuli from the breast or bottle. This occurs in a full term infant around 6 weeks of age. This is important to note, as unsuccessful feeding in the first 6 weeks of life, can set the tone for developing eating patterns throughout life.

Oral Motor Skills and Feeding at 3 – 7 Months of Age

By 4 months of age, most infants have gained fair head control and are able to remain in an upright position with support, and parents are beginning to introduce puréed foods. As they have grown, the anatomical structure of their jaws and tongues have dropped forward to support munching patterns. They also may open their mouth when a spoon is presented and are able to manage thin purees with minimal difficulties.

Oral Motor Pattern 3-7 Months

* Munching patterns
* Lateral jaw movement
* Diagonal jaw movement
* Lateral tongue movement

The development of these patterns allow infants to be successful with thin and thick purees, meltables and soft foods such as banana and avocado.

Oral Motor Skills and Feeding at 7-9 Months of Age

Between 7 and 9 months of age, infants are now moving into unsupported sitting, quadroped and crawling. This development supports jaw stability, breath support and fine motor development for self feeding skills. Infants at this age now begin to be able to successfully manage “lumpy” purees, bite and munch meltables and softer foods with assistance and the development of rotary chewing begins.

Oral Motor Patterns 7-9 Months of Age

* Lip closure
* Scraping food off spoon with upper lip
* Emerging tongue lateralization
* Movement of food from side to side

The above skills are clearly noted during the 7-9 month age range. If these skills are missing, eating a larger variety of textures will become difficult.

Rotary Chewing

Rotary chewing is broken into stages. The first stage being diagonal rotary chewing, and the second being circular rotary chewing.

Diagonal Rotary Chew

Diagonal rotary chewing is when the jaw moves across the midline in a diagonal pattern and comes back. This type of chewing often looks like an X from a frontal view.

Circular Rotary Chew

As the child develops, a circular rotary pattern emerges. In this pattern, the child’s jaws line up, slide across, jaws line up, and slide across again, looking like a circle from a frontal view.

Rotary Chewing Supports

Rotary patterns begin emerging around 10 months of age. The child at this time is also developing dissociation of his head from his body. This supports increased independence with biting pieces of food, lateralization of a bolus across the midline, and decreased spillage from the lateral sides of the mouth.

Oral Motor Skills at 12-15 Months of Age

By 12 months of age, the child has developed the oral motor basics to support feeding. As time goes on, the child will practice these skills resulting in less messy eating and the ability to handle more challenging foods. At this age, a child is able to manage foods with juice, and chew and swallow firmer foods such as cheese, soft fruits, vegetables, pasta and some meats.

Oral Motor Skills at 16-36 Months of Age

Between 16 and 36 months of age, the child continues to develop their jaw strength, management of a bolus, chewing with a closed mouth, sweeping of small pieces of food into a bolus, and chewing ‘harder’ textured foods such as raw vegetables and meat. A full circular rotary chew should also be developed at this time to support eating all varieties of foods.

Impact of Delayed Oral Motor Skills

Oral motor skills play a large role in a child being a successful eater and having a positive experience with food. When a skill is missing, feeding becomes difficult and stressful for everyone involved. By assessing where the delay in skill is, new skills can be developed successfully, leading to an efficient eater.

Read here about oral motor skills and the sensory components that play into picky eating and problematic feeding.

Looking for more information on oral motor problems? You’ll love these oral motor skill resources: 

   



Oral motor skill development in kids and how development of oral motor skills translates to feeding problems

Pediatric Feeding: Is it Sensory, Oral Motor or Both?

Below, you will find a blog post on pediatric feeding therapy and answers to initial questions about feeding therapy such as “Are pediatric feeding issues related to sensory needs, oral motor problems or both?” and thoughts about where to begin with pediatric feeding therapy techniques.

Occupational therapists and parents often wonder if feeding problems are related to sensory issues or oral motor skills. This article on pediatric therapy addresses that question.

Pediatric Feeding: Is it Sensory, Oral Motor or Both?

When I was in grad school, we had one, three hour lab on feeding, and were told, Speech would handle feeding, so don’t worry.  Little did I know that what I thought was going to happen, was very far from reality.

Feeding Therapy Evaluation

When a child enters a therapy clinic for an OT feeding evaluation, we are prepared for sensory deficits to be present. What we are not prepared for in school, is the potential, and probable oral motor component. This is a skill that most of us learn on the job, in trial by fire, with limited guidance. Or, so was my experience.

Due to the high level of overlap between Speech and OT when it comes to feeding, this often is a problem that OT’s face. Depending on the setting, and even the facility you are in, can determine whose job it is to handle feeding clients.

A majority of professionals maintain that if it appears sensory based and the child has a limited diet, eats only certain textures or colors, it is for OT. If it appears oral motor in nature and the child cannot chew or manage a bolus well, it is for Speech to handle.

Herein lies the problem and common misconception about problematic feeders. Feeding challenges are more than just sensory, or just oral motor.

It is both sensory and oral motor based. This can lead to a very challenging, and complex situation for an OT who is new to feeding.

Oral Motor Skills and Sensory Challenges in Feeding Therapy

When a child limits the textures and variety of foods they eat, they limit the growth and development of their oral motor skills.

Let’s take a child who eats only pureed foods, and refuses solids of any kind for an example.

Oral motor skills needed to eat a thin puree off a spoon and to eat a carrot stick are vastly different.

Puréed foods require minimal bolus management of a thin food that quickly runs down the esophagus with minimal effort. The puree is also smooth, eliminating any scary “texture” for the child to manage.

The carrot stick, on the other hand requires the child to have awareness of his mouth, tongue, and bite pressure before even creating a bolus with the bite of carrot. The child also has to manage the bolus and break down of carrot efficiently while chewing and then swallowing.

Add in the sensory component of crunchy, wet and constantly changing size of the pieces of the carrot, and the child can become easily overwhelmed.

And so, the vicious cycle of a limited diet begins. Lack of confidence with oral motor skills and sensory deficits can lead to problematic feeders.

Feeding Therapy Goals

The above example is a frequent experience that many OT’s have faced when completing a therapy feeding session. With lack of exposure and continued refusal to attempt new foods, the child’s oral motor skills are never able to develop to support the trial of new foods continuing the cycle.

As occupational therapists, it is our job to help these children become functional eaters through the use of sensory desensitization and remediation of delayed oral motor skills.

Oral Motor Development in Feeding Therapy

As oral motor development is a lengthy topic, the next post will address oral motor development and food pairings to determine gaps in skills and provide effective remediation of delayed skills.

Check out the handout below to show parents and help explain the overlap of sensory processing and oral motor skills in problematic feeders.

Would you like to print this visual guide? Click here to access the printable pdf in our free resources library. You will also receive weekly newsletters full of therapy resources, tips, strategies, and information. The OT Toolbox newsletter is perfect for therapists and those working with occupational therapists.

Disclaimer: Feeding difficulties stem from a variety of difficulties including medical, structural, sensory deficits and skill deficits. The main discussion of this post is to examine the crossover of sensory and oral motor skills. Medical and structural concerns will be addressed in future posts.

A little about Kaylee: 
Hi Everyone! I am originally from Upstate N.Y., but now live in
Texas, and am the Lead OTR in a pediatric clinic. I have a bachelors in Health Science from Syracuse University at
Utica College, and a Masters in Occupational Therapy from Utica College. I have been working with children with special needs for 8 years,
and practicing occupational therapy for 4 years. I practice primarily in a
private clinic, but have experience with Medicaid and home health settings
also. Feeding is a skill that I learned by default in my current
position and have come to love and be knowledgeable in. Visual development and
motor integration is another area of practice that I frequently address and see
with my current population. Looking forward to sharing my knowledge with you all! ~Kaylee Goodrich, OTR

Click on the images below to check out these related articles: 

Jaw instability is an oral motor problem that results in impaired eating and drinking skills.  Exaggerated jaw movements are an oral motor problem that interfere with feeding including eating and drinking. Here are reasons why this oral motor issue happen and how it relates to feeding in kids. Jaw clenching is an oral motor problem that interferes with feeding and eating. Help to understand jaw clenching and reasons it might occur. Jaw thrust is a common oral motor problem that interferes with feeding. Here are the underlying causes and how jaw thrust impacts feeding in kids.

Stability Bite Oral Motor Problems

You may have seen the series of oral motor posts here on The OT Toolbox. All of these oral motor issues and additional resources are described on this oral motor problem post where you can check out common oral motor issues that interfere with eating and drinking like jaw clenching, jaw instability, jaw clenching, exaggerated jaw movements, and jaw thrust. The information below is related to stability bite oral motor problems.

Oral motor problems such as stability bite is an inefficient oral motor issue that interferes with eating, feeding, and brushing teeth. Occupational therapists and those who work with kids with oral motor challenges will find this helpful.

Stability Bite Oral Motor Problems

Start by reading more about development of oral motor skills.

When presented with a spoon, fork, cup, or straw, the child exhibiting a stability bit tightly bites down in order to gain stability in a voluntary manner. They are able to voluntarily open their mouth unlike jaw closure.


A stability bite occurs because of several reasons:

  • Low muscle tone
  • Poor posture 
  • Fluctuations in muscle tone
  • Poor control of the jaw
  • Poor or inconsistent proprioceptive feedback from the jaw
  • Poor graded control of jaw movements
  • Lack of experience with biting and chewing exploration

Feeding issues related to a stability bite

  • When kids present with stability bite, eating and drinking are not efficient. 
  • Rhythmical eating and drinking can result.
  • It is possible for a pattern of internal jaw instability to develop with continued use of external stability that a stability bite provides.
Oral motor problems such as stability bite is an inefficient oral motor issue that interferes with eating, feeding, and brushing teeth. Occupational therapists and those who work with kids with oral motor challenges will find this helpful.