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Why Does My Child Chew?

By Laura May, Owner of Munchables Sensory Solutions Ltd.

Contributing Author OT Katie Yoon, MS, OTR/L

Do you ever look at your child and wonder why they are chewing on their fingers, clothing or hair? Maybe your child tends to gnaw on their pencils while doing homework? Or perhaps, when your little one comes home from school they have chewed and torn sleeves? You’re not alone if this behavior leaves you feeling confused or frustrated. Before you tell your child to stop chewing, it is important to understand WHY. 

Why does my child chew?

Put simply – Chewing reduces stress and anxiety. That’s it. (There may be some other reasons which I’ll outline in future articles, but that is the primary reason.)

You may be thinking, “But my child isn’t stressed out”. However, there may be going on than you realize, especially with the uncertainty provided by Covid-19. Children have very little control over their environments and it is important to understand what is going on in their lives to the best of our abilities as parents.

Let’s examine the concept of chewing due to stress and anxiety first. Do you know any adults who chew their nails when they’re anxious? Or maybe their pens? These are actions that I know that I personally take when I’m feeling overwhelmed. Children are no different from us adults.

Chewing helps with coping and self-regulation

In 2019, The Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists reviewed Munchables and provided this key sentence in their report.

The Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists recommends Munchables sensory chewelry for its ability to “replace inappropriate chewing behavior (i.e. chewing on fingernails, pencils or clothing) and to provide potential regulating effects for the sensory system - reducing fidgeting and promoting attention and focus.”       

 That last half of the sentence provides the official OT answer you may have been seeking – “Provide potential regulating effects”. We can go back to the scientific literature and find a peer-reviewed study written about thirty years ago by Scheerer that found the following,

“There is a great deal of research that supports clinical observations that having something in one’s mouth to chew or suck on can provide a calming, organizing, and focusing response.” (1992)

But your child doesn’t need that scientific literature. Kids intuitively know that chewing helps to calm and focus them. The takeaway here is to not force your child to stop chewing. They NEED to chew. Your child isn’t chewing on their pencils to drive you crazy. They are chewing because it is helping them to cope. The key is to provide the child with a safer alternative to their clothing, fingernails or whatever is closest at the time.

Chewing behavior may peak during big changes in a child’s life such as starting school, moving or during divorce. It is important to realize that children are coping in the best way that they know how – by chewing - because it works.

The most important thing you can do for your child is to remove any shame and stigma from their behavior. They are helping themselves in the most effective way they know how.

Munchables is owned by a Canadian husband-wife team with two sensory children of their own. We understand how important it is for kids to have stylish, discreet chewies. Please reach out to us at sales@munchables.ca if you have any questions.

Change "Don't Chew That" to "Chew this" with Munchables Chewelry.

Disclaimer: If you are concerned about your child’s chewing behavior, contact your healthcare provider for more information. 

 Why does my child chew?

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What is Oral Hyposensitivity Gustatory Sensory Processing Disorder?

Sensory Processing Disorder comes in many shapes and forms. Gustatory Sensory Processing Disorder refers to a heightened or decreased sensitivity to eating or sense of taste. 

10 signs of oral hyposensitivity to look for.

Your child may:

  • Chew on fingers or shirts,
  • Lick objects around them.
  • Chew non-food items,
  • Chew the inside of their cheeks,
  • Bite other people,
  • Prefer crunchy foods,
  • Bites their tongue and lips often,
  • Prefers spicy and intense flavorful foods,
  • Fill their cheeks full of food, 
  • Prefers only very hot or very cold foods,

    Last week I discussed 10 signs of Hypersensitivity Gustatory Sensory Processing Disorder to look for. There are two types of Gustatory Sensory Processing Disorder: Hypersensitivity and Hypersensitivity to oral stimuli.

    Munchables chews can help with Gustatory Sensory Processing Disorder. Say goodbye to torn shirts and bitten nails with Munchables. Our sensory pendants provide kids with a stylish, discreet piece of jewellery that can be chewed on with confidence while out with friends or at home.
    www.munchables.ca/collections/kids-pendants

    Gustatory Sensory Processing Disorder Oral Hypo-sensitivity

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    What is Oral Hypersensitivity Gustatory Sensory Processing Disorder?

    Sensory Processing Disorder comes in many shapes and forms. Gustatory Sensory Processing Disorder refers to a heightened or decreased sensitivity to eating or sense of taste. 

    10 signs of oral hypersensitivity to look for.

    Your child may:

    • Be sensitive to hot and cold foods,
    • Often gag on food textures,
    • Dislike the taste of toothpaste,
    • Prefers bland plain food,
    • Be anxious to go to the dentist,
    • Avoid certain food textures,
    • Dislike brushing their teeth,
    • Refuse new foods,
    • Have difficulty chewing, and
    • Prefer pureed foods.

    Next week, I'll discuss Hyposensitivity Gustatory Sensory Processing Disorder. There are two types of Gustatory Sensory Processing Disorder: Hypersensitivity and Hypersensitivity to oral stimuli.

    10 Signs your child may have Sensory Processing Disorder Oral Hypersensitive (Gustatory)

     

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    Munchables Turns 8!

    It is hard to believe that 8 years ago today, I launched Munchables from a table at the Abbotsford Craft Fair. So much has changed! At the launch, as pictured, I only sold teething items for babies. Based on customer requests, I slowly transitioned to specialising in custom chew designs for older kids. Thank you so much to those who asked for these designs and to all of you who have supported me on this incredible journey. I am eternally grateful.🥰

    Munchables Owner, Laura, and her son launching Munchables
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    DIY Sensory Calm Down Bottle Recipes

    DIY Sensory Calm Down Bottles Make Yourself

    Sensory calm down bottles are an excellent tool for parents to have in their toolkit. These inexpensive, portable sensory aids can be used to quietly soothe children, avoid meltdowns and help kids manage their emotions.

    Sensory calm down jars encourage mindfulness, focus and calm for when children or adults are feeling overwhelmed and anxious. Watching them can be a great reset because they can be so captivating to watch. They can also be used as a timer for "time-outs" if so desired. The use of sensory calm down bottles is a mindful activity that can help center children.

    Also known as zen jar, mindful jar, relaxation jar, or sensory bottles. There are many different recipes to make your child's sensory bottle, including water, dish soap, baby oil, food coloring, clear glue or hair gel.

    Looking to take this idea to the next level? Try making special holiday calm down bottles. Try adding red and green rice to your mindful jar at Christmas or drop creepy spiders into a baby oil sensory jar at Halloween. Take your child to the dollar store and together you can design the perfect DIY sensory bottle. Have fun!

    What you can add to a sensory calming bottle

    1. Glitter 

    2. Foil Confetti

    3. Food coloring 

    4. Mini toy figures 

    5. Beads 

    6. Hair gel

    7. Baby oil

    8. Colored buttons 

    9. Colored elastics 

    10. Mini glow sticks 

    11. Pipe cleaners 

    12. Water beads 

    13. Dish soap

    14. Rice 

    15. Beans 

     Sensory Bottle Hair Gel

    Hair Gel Sensory Bottle 

    1. Add 1/2 cup of hair gel and then fill with warm water 3/4 full. 

    2. Put the top on the bottle and shake well. 

    3. Add some glitter and shake. 

    4. If your beads or small items don't move well you may need to add a little more water.

    5. Use super glue to glue the lid shut so it doesn't open. 

    * You can add a few beads, lego blocks or small items and toys. 

     

    Sensory Bottle Water Beads

    Water Beads Sensory Bottle 1. Soak your water beads until they are full size. 

    2. Use a funnel and pour the water beads in the jar. 

    3. You can pour in color by color or all together, that's your choice.

    4. You can add some water or you can have the water beads in your sensory bottle without water too. 

    5. Use super glue to glue the lid shut so it doesn't open.

    * You can add a few beads, lego blocks or small items and toys. 

     Sensory Bottle with Glitter

    Glitter Sensory Bottle 

    1. Fill the bottle with warm water. (3/4 full) 

    2. Add one bottle of Elmer's clear glue. 

    3. Add a lot glitter. 

    4. Add a few drops of food coloring.

    5. Use super glue to glue the lid shut so it doesn't open. 

    * You can add a few beads, lego blocks or small items and toys. 

     Sensory Bottle Eye Spy Alphabet

    Eye Spy Alphabet Sensory Bottle 

    1. Fill up the bottle using dyed colored rice or sand. (instructions for dry color rice below) 

    2. Use a funnel to add small objects into the bottle to find. I used letters as an educational activity to learn the alphabet but you can add absolutely anything.

    3. Finish adding dyed colored rice, beans or sand in the other half of the bottle. 

    4. Make a list of objects for your child to find in the colored rice or sand. 

    5. Use super glue to glue the lid shut so it doesn't open.

    Sensory Rice Bottle

    Colored Sensory Rice For Sensory Bottle 

    1. Fill the sensory bottle up 3/4 with rice. 

    2. Pour it in a container with a lid

    3. Use white vinegar to just get the rice a little damp. 

    4. Add a few drops of food coloring to the rice

    5. Close the lid and shake. 6. Lay the rice out on a piece of paper towel and let it dry over night. 

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    Mindful Breathing Activities For Children

    Mindful Breathing Techniques for Kids

    Teaching our children to be mindful, is teaching them long term life skills that will help them as they grow. These life skills will minimize their anxiety and stress, improve their focus, increase their happiness and improve their ability to cope when they find life getting too overwhelming or overstimulating.

    Make mindful activities a positive part of their day. This includes familiar activities that they enjoy, especially when they are just beginning to learn how to be mindful. Include mindful activities in your child's visual schedule. This will help them to expect and understand that this will become a part of their routine. After a while, you will notice that your child is practicing being mindful on their own naturally.

    Benefits for teaching children mindful activities

    • Increases emotional regulation
    • Decreased depression
    • Better memory
    • Cognitive improvements
    • Stronger relationships
    • Reduces anxiety and stress
    • Better focus and attention
    • Improve sleep
    • Better moods
    • Increased self esteem
    • Increased feeling of calm

    Mindful breathing can be done in so many different ways. You want your child to be comfortable. Practice breathing slowly, closing or opening their eyes and asking them to take notice when their chest moves when they breathe.

    There is a wide variety of mindful breathing activities for children that you can practice. Here are a few ideas. Some breathing techniques your child will absolutely love, others not so much. Try a few to see which what works for your child.

    5 Breathing Techniques for Kids:

    1. Teddy Bear Breathing
    Teddy bear breathing is an easy and fun breathing technique for children. Ask your child to lay down on their back and get comfortable. Ask them to take their teddy bear and place it on their belly. Inhaling slowly and exhaling slowly. Ask your child to focus on their teddy bear, watching it go up and down as they breathe. Repeat several times until they are focused and calm.

    2. Blow Out The Candle Breathing
    Ask your child to pretend they are blowing out the candles on their birthday cake. Taking a deep breath through their nose and breathing out through their mouth blowing out the candles.

    3. Pinwheel Breathing
    Pinwheel breathing is a great mindful breathing activity for children. It can be done while sitting down or standing up, although you will need a pinwheel for your child to do this activity. Get your child to take a deep breath through their nose and then slowly breathe out blowing on the pinwheel watching the pinwheel spin. They can repeat this a few times until they are calm. Pinwheels can be found at some dollar stores and also available on Amazon.

    4. Elephant Breathing
    Ask your child to stand with their feet apart and their arms dangling in fron of them like the trunk of an elephant. As they breathe in deeply through their nose get them to raise their arms up high above their head. Then slowly swinging their arms down again as they breathe out through their mouth. Your child can repeat this several times until they are feeling calm.

    5. Bubble Breathing
    Ask your child to sit down and pretend to be blowing bubbles through a bubble wand. Inhaling deeply through their nose and blowing out slowly as they are blowing bubbles through the bubble wand trying to blow the biggest bubbles they can blow. They can repeat this several times. For fun, you can try this breathing activity with real bubbles and a bubble wand.

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    Heavy Work Activities 

    Sensory Heavy Work Activities Blog Post Picture of Boy Doing Heavy Work

    Heavy work can be great calming activities for children and adults who have Sensory Processing Disorder. Heavy work activities are great for decreasing anxiety and regulating our sensory proprioceptive system. Heavy work is lifting, pushing or pulling. 

    Children and adults with Sensory Processing Disorder or Autism often need to chew to self regulate. The more sensory input they have in their sensory diet, the less they will chew. 

    Proprioceptive Activities 

    1. Rough play wrestling

    2. Tug of war

    3. Crawling through tunnels

    4. Pulling/pushing cart or wagon

    5. Catching or throwing a heavy weighted ball

    6. Wheelbarrow walking

    7. Scooter board activities

    8. Pulling apart resistant toys/objects

    9. Joint compressions

    10. Push ups or sit ups

    Each persons sensory needs are different. Some will need more sensory input than others, while others will require less. An Occupational Therapist can assess each individual person to determine their sensory diet and how much sensory input they need. 

    Heavy Work Activities 

    1. Carry heavy items (baskets with cardboard blocks, laundry, groceries with Mom, bag for teacher, etc.)

    2. Chew on a a Munchables chew pendantschew necklaces, chew bracelets or zipper pull chews

    3. Scooter board to and from a designated location (sit and lie on stomach use arms to propel)

    4. Carry bean bags on head or shoulders and walk across a room, weighted vests, belts, wrist weights. Carry heavy pillow or cushions. 

    5. Pull other children around on a sheet or blanket

    6. Yard work, including mowing the lawn, raking grass or leaves, pushing wheelbarrow

    7. House work including vacuuming and mopping, carrying the bucket of water to clean with or water plants

    8. Chew on chewy or  crunchy snacks (carrots, apples, ice chips or jerky) 

    9. Falling into bean bag chair or crash mat

    10. Drink a milkshake through a thin straw

    11. Climbing activities (such as playground equipment)

    12. Animal walks, crab walk, bear walk, army crawl

    13. Use a weighted blankets and tighter pj's 

    14. Swimming 

    15. Gymnastics or dancing 

     

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    Inspirational Quotes For Special Needs Parents

    Inspirational Quotes for Parents of Children with Special Needs

    1. Your special needs journey won't be the same as anyone else's, so don't let anyone in the world tell you what it should look like. ~ Unknown

    2. A child with disabilities often spends hours being taught how to interact with others... but why don't we spend time teaching those without disabilities how to interact with them? ~ Calleen Petersen

    3. Having children with special needs can be challenging. Getting people to understand can be the hardest part. ~ Unknown 

    4. It shouldn’t matter how slowly a child learns. What matters is that we encourage them to never stop trying. ~ Robert John Meehan

    5. There is no such thing as a “bad kid” - just angry, hurt, tired, scared, confused, impulsive ones expressing their feelings & needs the only way they know how. We owe it to every single one of them to always remember that. ~ Jessica Stephens

    6. When your child is having a meltdown... don't talk. Don't try to reason. Don't get angry. Your child can't hear you. Just be silent and loving until the storm passes. Words can come later. ~ Unknown 

    7. I think having a child with disabilities teaches you a level of love, patience, protection, compassion and understanding you didn't even know existed. ~ Unknown

    8. Don't let others who don't understand your child's struggles, make you doubt your parenting. ~ Unknown 

    9. A child is like a butterfly in the wind. Some can fly higher than others, but each one flies the best it can. Why compare one against the other? Each one is different, each one is special, each one is beautiful. ~ Unknown 

    10. Embrace the unique way your child is blooming - even if it's not in the garden you imagined. ~ Jenn Soehnlin 

    11. They said he wouldn't, but he did. They said he couldn't, but he can. They said he won't, but he will. ~ Unknown 

    12. The best gift you can give a child with special needs is your friendship. To include them, play with them and believe in them. ~ Unknown 

    13. Nine times out of 10, the story behind the misbehavior won't make you angry, it will break your heart. ~ Annette Breaux 

    14. I am a parent. I am a caregiver. I am a family member. It is my job to see the world through this child's eyes. Explain this child to teachers. Explain this child to our community. It is my privilege to fight for this child's needs. ~ Unknown 

    15. My child isn't giving me a hard time, they are having a hard time. ~ Unknown 

    16. Special needs parenting can be really tough. Most could never do what you do each day. Don't be so hard on yourself. Be strong. Be brave. You can do this. You are doing a great job. I see you. ~ Unknown 

    17. Before you judge me as a special needs parent... Please know that I am already my biggest critic. ~ Unknown 

    18. The hardest part of being a parent is watching a child go through something really tough and not being able to fix it for them. ~ Unknown 

    19. I think having a child with disabilities teaches you a level of love, patience, protection, compassion and understanding you didn't even know existed. ~ Unknown 

    20. Sensory Processing Disorder does exist. It's real. Our kids are not bad kids. Our kids do not lack discipline. We are not making excuses for behaviors. A meltdown is not a tantrum. Sensory Processing Disorder can cause extreme reactions and anxiety. Children with SPD are not spoiled and they do not do it for attention. SPD does not affect everyone the same way. Please be understanding and supportive. ~ Jeanette Baker-Loftus 

    21. There are no bad children. There are bad choices. There are bad moments. There are bad days. There are bad situations. But there are no bad children. Period. L.R Knost 

    22. We are not special parents because we have special needs children. We are regular people who have become better human beings because of our special needs children. ~ Unknown 

    23. When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, it's our job to share our calm, not join their chaos. ~ L.R Knost 

    24. Don't let others who don't understand your child's struggles, make you doubt your parenting. ~ Unknown 

    25. I think the hardest part of having a child with a delay of any kind is the fight. The fight for services, the fight for people to understand who your child is and what they need. The fight for knowledge, because knowledge is power and the quiet fight you have within yourself wondering if you have left no stone unturned. ~ Jessie Doyle 

    26. People with special needs are not as different from you and me as you might think. They want the same things we want: to love and be loved, and to be accepted, appreciated, and included. ~ Sylvia Phillips 

    27. I will speak for you, I will fight for you, I will advocate for you, So that one day, You can do it for yourself. ~ Unknown 

    28. Judging a child who has special needs does not define who they are... it defines who you are. ~ Unknown 

    29. Crying and feeling sad when you have a child who has special needs does not mean that you are weak. It means that you're a parent who is in search of getting your child all that he/she needs and at times feels frustrated, overwhelmed and isolated. ~ Unknown 

    30. I don’t think the worst thing that could happen to me is raising a child with special needs. I think the worst thing is to raise a child who is cruel to those with special needs. ~ unknown 

    31. Do not let a broken system convince you that you have a broken child. ~ Uknown 

    32. When you are frustrated with me because of the things I cannot do … Just imagine how frustrated I must be because I am not able. ~ Unknown 

    33. Children with special needs come into our lives, leaving footprints on our hearts and we are never the same. ~ Unknown

    34. The kids who need the most love will ask for it in the most unloving ways. ~ Russell Barkley 

    35. Remember, popcorn is prepared in the same pot, in the same heat, in the same oil, but the kernels don't pop at the same time. Don't compare your child to other children, their turn to pop is coming. ~ Unknown 

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    20 Ideas for A Successful Sensory Christmas

    1. Try keeping to your routine as much as possible. Using a visual schedule can be helpful.
    2. Remember, it's ok to have only close family over for Christmas.
    3. If you decide to go out, explain your child’s sensory challenges to family and friends ahead of time.
    4. Have a designated quiet space set aside for your child to be alone if they get overwhelmed.
    5. While you are out, remember that it's ok to leave early. Your child will let you know when it's time to leave.
    6. Try to make Christmas Day last for days or a week - Not everything has to happen in one day.
    7. If you are going out for a special dinner, bring your child's favorite foods along.
    8. When you notice your child is coping well, praise their great behavior.
    9. It's important to fill your child's sensory diet during the holidays to keep them regulated. Stock up on Munchables fidgets and chews to help.
    10. Allow time during the holidays for scheduled sensory breaks.
    11. Lower your expectations as most children with Sensory Processing Disorder will have meltdowns during Christmas activities because they get overwhelmed.
    12. If your child has several gifts, open them gradually over days or weeks so they don't get overwhelmed.
    13. Gradually add Christmas decorations to your home.
    14. Before attending events, make a secret signal that your child can use to let you know when it's too much for them.
    15. Don't be afraid to say no to visitors. If you do have guests, it's ok to have a time limit.
    16. Let your child run, jump, spin and swing as much as they need to during the holidays.
    17. Search your area for sensory Santa events. You can schedule a time to visit to Santa privately.
    18. Be aware of your surroundings. Smells can be too strong, sounds can be too loud and lights can be too bright.
    19. Less can be best. Too much of anything will likely be overwhelming and cause a meltdown.
    20. Enjoy yourself! Celebrate Christmas in a way that works for you and your family.
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    New Lanyard Options Available

    Introducing Two New Lanyard Options!

    The first new style is a thick, smooth satin ribbon Lanyard with a durable breakaway clasp, while the second is a belt-clip style Retractable Lanyard. Either of these options can be used with Munchables chews or fidgets to prevent dropped, lost or thrown items.

    Munchables New Lanyards
    The Munchables Retractable Lanyards feature a retractable cord with 4 optional attachment points - a clip for a waistband or belt, a carabiner, a lobster clasp and a plastic snap fastener.
    The Munchables Satin Lanyards features a loop that can be fastened

    to any Munchables pendant. Best of all, the attachment point is removable! You can easily clean the satin lanyard by unclipping the chew. 

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