This study describes tongue movements of normal preschool children during eating, and is the first phase in a long-term project to develop a standardized eating assessment for children. It is hoped eventually to fill the need for an objective measurement tool in pediatric occupational therapy practice. The movements were monitored in 40 children; 20 were 4 years ± 1 month, and 20 were 5 years ± 1 month. Each group consisted of 10 boys and 10 girls.

Two different tongue positions were quantified: First, as food was presented to the child when the food was 5 cm from the lips; and second, as food was swallowed. Tongue position upon food presentation and upon swallowing was affected by age, sex, and type of food. Both responses showed maturational changes from 4 to 5 years. It is proposed that important maturational changes take place between 4 and 5 years of age, but that adult patterns of swallowing are attained later in development.

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