As your baby moves into solids, around 8 months you can introduce hard munchables. These foods are not for eating or swallowing and should not break apart in your child’s mouth. Hard munchables are firm foods, appropriately shaped into a stick form. They are long enough so that baby can easily grasp the food and reach the back of the gums. It’s important that the food be firm enough so that it won’t break, and thin enough so that it will fit between the gums.
It is critical that babies are supervised at all times when exploring hard munchables. They are not meant be eaten instead they are used for oral development like increasing tongue movements, especially side movements which helps teach the tongue to put foods to the back of the mouth. It is also useful in moving the gag reflex back in the mouth. It also helps children’s mouths to accommodate for different size of foods. They can be offered on their own or dipped in purees to encourage self-feeding and independence.
What are examples of hard munchables?
– Raw carrot rod
– Raw celery rod
– Hardened pepperoni stick
– Beef jerky stick
– Hardened pizza crust/bread stick
– Hardened fruit leather stick
– Frozen French toast or waffle sticks
Once your child’s molars protrude and jaw strength increases, the hard munchables are no longer used for exploration and children can then bite pieces off. 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 they do not bite a piece off and the next they could. Coordinating all of the muscles for eating is hard work for little ones. Providing hard munchables while introducing solids is a great extra step for teaching some new oral motor movements.