Here are some awesome oral sensory snack ideas for kids. These are perfect for after school or homework time, to make as a cooking activity in the classroom, or to pack as a snack or lunch option!
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For many kids, a sure-fire way to help them regulate their bodies, minds, and behavior is by honing in on the oral sensory system.
It may take a bit of trial and error to see what works for each individual kiddo, but there are a few tried-and-true oral sensory tricks we OTs use to help kids become either more alert and engaged or calmer and more focused.
Along with my amazing preschool team, I’ve even facilitated oral sensory groups, allowing kids to explore different tastes and textures as we take notes on their behavioral responses to each one.
We’ve used these notes to create an oral sensory toolbox for each classroom with a little cheat sheet taped to the lid that describes what worked for each child. This way, the teacher can quickly grab a small chewy, crunchy, or sour snack for a child to have if he needs a little pick-me-up or some calming oral sensory input.
*Be sure to check out the free printable oral sensory worksheet to make note of kids’ responses to different types of tastes, textures, and other oral sensory experiences.
Alerting Oral Sensory Snack Ideas for Kids
For many children who appear disengaged, slow to respond, or lethargic; sour tastes, the taste of peppermint, cold foods and drinks, and crunchy snacks can provide alerting oral sensory input. Here are some great options:
1 || Homemade Sour Fruit Gummies from Buttered Side Up – These would be a fun new recipe to try and a great way to introduce an alerting sour taste.
2 || Citrus fruits – Try orange wedges or grapefruit wedges for more sour oral sensory input.
3 || Mints – Okay, these aren’t really a snack. But for kids who like them, they’re a great alerting option for homework time, circle time, or independent work time at school
4 || DIY Gogurt from Make the Best of Everything – Here’s a good, cold snack that would be a great pick-me-up for homework time or lunchtime!
5 || Lemonade – Another good sour option. Try adding a bit of sparkling water to make it bubbly! Carbonation can be super alerting for kids and this is a great way to try it without all of the sugar that’s typically in sodas.
6 || Pineapple Orange Banana Popsicles from Gimme Some Oven – A little sour, a little cold – the perfect alerting combo!
7 || Frozen grapes – Super easy and a fun, cold snack!
10 || Pretzels
11 || Sweet and Spicy Homemade Snack Mix from How Sweet It Is – Lots of good, alerting crunch and spiciness here! I don’t know what bacon fat popcorn is, but i want some. I’m sure regular popcorn would work too if your kids aren’t into the fancy stuff!
12 || Celery and cream cheese or peanut butter
13 || Sweet chickpeas from Prescribe Nutrition – We love our friends at Prescribe Nutrition because they come up with delicious and healthy recipes like this one! A sweet, crunchy, nutritious treat for your little one! Scroll down to see even more awesomeness from PN!
Calming Oral Sensory Snacks for Kids
For many children who appear to be overly active, have behaviors that seem “out of control”, or appear to be inattentive; foods that require resistive chewing and drinks that require resistive sucking can provide calming oral sensory input. Here are some great options:
14 || Sucking thicker liquids through a straw. Try this Homemade Orange Julius from Handmade Charlotte, a Mint Chip Smoothie from Prescribe Nutrition, or one of these veggie smoothie options from Babble.
15 || Drinking from a water bottle with a straw or other opening that requires sucking. We love these CamelBak water bottles for kids.
16 || Bagels are great for resistive chewing – kids love them with cream cheese or peanut butter!
17 || Gum. Again, not really a snack, but great for kids who need to chew! Try it during homework or independent work times at school.
20 || Raisins and other dried fruits. Or try this homemade fruit leather from Baked by Rachel.
***Always be aware and conscious of food allergies and sensitivities, as well as children’s oral motor skills and strength when trying new foods. For children with sensory needs and/or other medical concerns, it’s always best to collaborate with an occupational therapist or other medical professional before exploring new food options.
So what were your favorites? What worked best for your child or the kids in your class or therapy practice? We hope some yummy smells were coming from your kitchen as you cooked and baked up an oral sensory masterpiece!
More resources about kids and feeding/mealtimes
Oral Sensory & Olfactory Strategies for Teens [FREE Printable]