Question 1 – Where and how does your child chew?
Remember that chewing provides extra proprioceptive sensory input. So, where and how your child chews is important.
By where, I mean where in the mouth? Have a look when your child is chewing. Is the item at the front of their mouth? Or, is it at the back? Do they bite down hard? Or, do they suck?
Chewing provides sensory feedback. Therefore, it’s important to consider how your child is chewing as this will help you to know which type of chew toy will best suit your child. So, observe them for a few days. Really look!
When a child is sucking at the front, a rounder chew toy can sometimes be preferred. However, if they like to chew at the back of their teeth, a longer chew toy will be better.
Also, consider how hard they chew. If your child chews down really hard, then you will need to consider a tougher sensory chew toy. If they suck, then a softer one might give them more feedback. We give more information on specific types of chews below. First, let’s consider question two.
Question 2 – What texture and shape do they prefer when chewing?
Many children like to chew on clothing. When given a sensory chew toy, some children don’t use it. They prefer to chew on their clothing, or maybe the prefer a favourite toy. That’s why it is really important to consider texture and shape, starting with what the child already chews on.
Material is a very different texture to a piece of Lego. Look at what your child prefers. If they chew material, they may prefer a bandana rather than a chew, as this is their preferred texture.
Sensory chew toys come in a variety of textures. Firstly, they may be harder or softer. This is important to consider as if the child likes a bit more feedback then they will need a softer toy. Secondly, they can have textured patterns on them. Every child is different. Some like these patterns and others don’t.
By starting with what your child currently chews, you can start to understand what their preferences might be.
Question 3 – Are sensory chew toys age and/or socially appropriate for the child?
It likely won’t look out of place for children with significant learning disabilities to have a sensory chew. This is especially true if they are in a specialist school and surrounded by other children who have chew toys. The same is true for younger children. Under the age of five it would not necessarily look out of place if they were chewing.
However, for children in mainstream school who have a high level of social awareness, a sensory chew toy may not be appropriate. Firstly, they might not want to look different. Secondly, it may draw unwanted attention from their peers. In saying that, there are some children who don’t mind what their peers think and are happy to have their chew. Every child is different and individualised support is always the best option.