Being in the baby world for over a decade has given me the best gift- a wide range of professionals to learn from. Many of my friends are from my line of work and they consist of pediatric physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech language pathologists, other lactation consultants, body workers, nurse practicioners and physicians. I have gained so much knowledge and wisdom from these friends- and I am so grateful. It’s made me a far better lactation consultant and mom to my two kiddos. It has also made me very picky with the toys I purchase for my baby (don’t go in my 6 year olds play room- it’s full of junk- ha!).
Using toys is a very gentle way to work oral function without the tears and stress of having your fingers in their mouth as the only tool for improving oral stregthen- though that is also a very important part of the tongue tie journey and should bot be skipped. These recommendations are supplemental to the work your are doing with your fingers/massage, not a replacement.
These are toys that are in my baby’s toy box and toys that I recommend to other families. They all are appropriate for infants working on their oral function and general development- and as a bonus, they are all quite reasonably priced. If you haven’t had your baby yet, consider putting these toys on your registry. For my family, and for my recommendations, toys must meet the following criteria (thanks Mama OT for teaching me this!)
- It must used to meet specific first year milestones or to improve oral function
- It must be able to be used through more than one stage of development and for more than one purpose
- It must be affordable and easily accessible
With that said, lets dive into my favorite toys and play for infants who are working on their oral function!
The O-Ball might be at the top of my list for one of the best therapeutic toys for pre and post frenectomies. It is a light weight ball with holes and rattles. It is very easy for babies to grab at and hold. When they are teeny tiny, you can hold the ball to their mouth and they will stick their tongue out and around the ball. Once they are older (around 4 months or so) they can likely hold the ball in both hands at their mouth and their tongue will explore the different spaces in the ball.
This toy hits several of the developmental milestones checklist and improves oral function. It promotes tongue extension/stretching (sticking out) and laterization (moving side to side), grasping, hands to midline and hands to mouth, reaching, tracking, pointing, transferring from hand to hand, rolling and more. This toy can be used by you to help your baby meet other developmental milestones by facilitating fun play. Here’s an example- once your baby is 3 or 4 months old, you can lay them on their back and hold the toy slightly off center. The goal is for them to use the opposite hand to cross the midline (middle) of their body and reach for the ball. This is a huge developmental milestone for your baby! These balls, generally cost about $5-7 and come in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors (but stick with the ball.)
Bonus tip: hook a paci clip around one of the loops and clip it to them. This is a great way to encourage play in the car seat, stroller etc. without the risk of them throwing/dropping it on the ground.
These are lightweight teethers that can be used far before your baby starts teething! Similar to the O-ball, before your little one can hold or grasp this toy, you can hold it under the lips/gums to encourage tongue extension and laterization. The bottoms of this toy have different textures for your little ones tongue to explore and bite. They are light weight and easy to grasp. Once your baby can get their hand to their mouth and grasp, they can use the teethers on their own (but not without supervision) to explore. Once baby starts teething the ends of the teether can provide some comfort for biting at. Innobaby say this “our teethers stimulates muscles of the lips, tongue, and cheeks to improve oral motor skills.” about their teethers. These teethers generally run about $6-8 and available in the Shop, Amazon or directly through Innobaby.
Why do babies love this toy so much?! It is the most expensive toy on this list at $23 but is great through many stages of development (the whole first year!). I often use this toy to help with head turning preferences (turning to the non preferred side) and to engage baby during tummy time where we can get some great work done with oral exercises- like tug of war! Helping baby be more comfortable on their non preferred side will often help them feed better on both side (did you know head turning preferences and one-sided breast/chest preference often go hand in hand?) The bright colors help babies eye track, it has different textures to explore and a mirror on the bottom for baby to see themselves, and a rattle to help baby turn toward noise. This was the first toy I put in my shopping cart for my kiddo!
I use the Fluxi oral motor toy with “older” kiddos, really, 2+ months to work on oral motor development. It is a great tool to use for the phasic bite reflex, desensitize the gag reflex, laterization, extension and texture exploration. This toy has three spokes and is very easy for babies to hold and get into their mouth. It can be purchased from the Shop, Amazon or directly from their website. Sometimes babies will even suck on these which stregthens the tongue and cupping!
Similar in function to this is the Comotomo baby teether, around $7, and the MoonJax $17.
I’m sure there are many options out there for other great developmental toys, but in general, toys should light weight and have a place for baby to grasp the toy and lift. I hope this list was helpful for you as you navigate through your baby’s tongue tie journey! If you have any questions, feel free to contact us!