Speech is an essential tool of communication. To improve such speech skills among children, jaw exercises are very beneficial. Practicing jaw exercises fosters oral-motor functioning, enabling children to pick up their speech better. Jaw exercises strengthen the muscles in and around the mouth, jaw, and tongue, helping in better articulation and speech production.
Why are jaw exercises important?
Jaw exercises strengthen jaw muscles. It is important for better speech production.
For better articulation of sounds and words, the jaw muscles should be strengthened enough. The coordination of jaw muscles is necessary to articulate the speech sounds, improving overall speech clarity. These jaw exercises can strengthen the oral motor muscles, which allows better control during swallowing and chewing. Hence, a child’s overall oral health can be improved, which in turn fosters his or her development.
Jaw exercises can develop oral motor skills that are necessary to produce a wide range of sounds and are crucial in the development of language skills. Proper speech sound production can help the children to learn the language better. When they are able to produce the speech sounds they hear, they can better understand the meaning of those words and remember them well.
Control and coordination:
With these jaw exercises, proper muscle control can be achieved. Muscle control and coordination can help to achieve control over the movements of the mouth, tongue, and lips during speech production. With enhanced muscle control, the sound formation can be more precise. It can also facilitate better transitions between various words and sounds.
Swallowing and feeding:
With better muscle control through these jaw exercises, the swallowing and feeding abilities can also be improved. When the ability to chew and swallow is improved in children, better digestion takes place, which keeps up good health. This enables the child to learn more, improving the strength and coordination of jaw muscles, thus helping in the overall oral health and development of the child.
Oral motor control can improve speech skills and communication abilities, boosting self-confidence and leading to better interactions. Social communication abilities would also improve when the child’s jaw movements allow for speaking clearly and confidently. Improved social interactions can increase the confidence levels of the child.
How these jaw exercises can be done?
For individuals experiencing speech difficulties, seeking online speech therapy and exercises under the guidance of a trained and experienced speech and language pathologist can help a lot. Their custom-tailored exercises and activities can help enhance the speech abilities of individuals. Speech therapists are well-trained to offer targeted exercises and techniques for the speech issues your child is facing.
Here are some techniques that improve jaw movements.
Massage the jaw area softly, from upper lip to jaw, then from lower ear to jaw. Now, massage from the center of the eyes to the jaw and then massage from the cheeks to the jaw. Repeat them five times each.
Make the child open his mouth as wide as possible and say “ah” without any pain. This promotes awareness that the jaw can be opened wide without moving the head. While doing this exercise, do not let the child move his head or throw his head back. If he does so, stabilize his head by placing the palm of his hand at the back of his head, thus making him understand that the movement of the head is not necessary to open the jaw. Repeat this exercise five times. Hold this farthest open position for 1 to 2 seconds initially, which can be later on extended to 5 seconds later. Then, relax and let the child close his mouth.
The jaw should be moved to the right as far as until it pulls, but it doesn’t hurt. Hold it there for 1 to 2 seconds and then relax. Again, the jaw should be moved left until it feels a stretch but doesn’t hurt. Hold it there for 1 to 2 seconds, and then relax. Alternate this right-to-left movement five times. You can provide physical assistance for the child while doing this.
Have the child place his fingers on the sides of his face. The movement of the jaw should be felt. Tell the child to bite down firmly on the back teeth. While doing so, the fingers would feel the jaw muscles pop out. This exercise strengthens the jaw muscles. Repeat this five times.
During this exercise, place a licorice stick or the back side of a toothbrush on the child’s bottom right molars. Tell him to bite and hold it in place while you try to pull out the stick. This exercise should be repeated five times on each side by alternating both left and right sides. This exercise enables the child to bite with enough pressure to hold the stick or the back of the brush in place inside the mouth without biting through it. This also strengthens jaw muscles.
This exercise can be done by spreading your fingers along the jawbone of your child. Place your thumb under the child’s chin and apply gentle pressure. Tell the child to open his mouth wide while you apply resistance. As the child tries to push your thumb, make him feel the pressure. Repeat this five times. Please keep in mind that the pressure won’t be felt if he jaw is jutting forward or moving laterally.
Tell the child to open his mouth wide. Now, place your index finger on the front of his chin. Tell the child to close his mouth by pulling against the pressure of your finger. Have this repeated five times.
Take a craft stick or the back of a toothbrush and place it between the child’s molars on one side. Ask the child to bite it down lightly to hold it in place. Now have your child say, “tah, tah, tah, dah, dah, dah, nah, nah, nah”. Place a mirror before the child to see if the craft stick moves at all. Instruct the child that there should not be any moment. No movement indicates a quiet jaw. Repeat this thrice.
Place a tongue depressor horizontally across the child’s mouth between his teeth. Tell him to hold it there while you place your index finger on the inside of both ends of the tongue depressor and pull gently. This can be tried with a toothbrush, too. Repeat this five times.
All of these exercises will strengthen the jaw muscles, enabling better speech sound production. If you are intending to have them done under the guidance of an expert, taking the custom-tailored therapy plan for your child, we are here to help you. Please start with our free online speech consultation and give your child’s speech journey a kickstart today!