What are Hard Munchables?
Hard Munchables are rod shaped food items that a child can hold independently and when inserted into the child’s mouth, it does not break apart and is long enough that a portion of the food remains outside of the mouth. The goal of hard munchables is NOT to eat, but for the child to explore the inner surfaces of their mouth and learn about this food texture. Exploring hard munchables is extra important for teaching the tongue to put foods to the back of a child’s mouth, thus enabling the child to eat more complex foods in the future, such as steak and baby carrots. Hard munchables are also useful in moving the gag reflex towards the back of the mouth as well as teaching the mouth how to accommodate for different size food objects.
When to introduce hard munchables?
– Child is mouthing toys without prompting.
– Child has neck and head control to sit independently.
– Number of teeth are not a prerequisite….. it is preferred to introduce hard munchables BEFORE children have teeth!
What are examples of hard munchables?
– Raw carrot rod
– Raw celery rod
– Raw jicama rod
– Beef jerky stick
– Hardened pizza crust/bread stick
– Hardened Twizzler stick
– Rib without meat on it
– Frozen French toast sticks
As always, only expose your child to foods under direct and constant supervision. Feeding skills vary and change frequently, so be mindful that one day a celery stick does not break apart and a few weeks later, the child is shredding pieces off!
Once your child’s molars protrude and jaw strength increases, the hard munchables are no longer used for exploration and become a food for ingestion purposes.