Eating movements in the preschool child undergo change between the ages of 2 and 5 years. There is a lack of objective clinical data from normal children against which eating movements of feeding-impaired children can be compared. In this study, chewing movements were measured to complement tongue movements described in an earlier study. The movements were monitored in 40 children: 20 were four years old and 20 were five years old. Each group had ten boys and ten girls.
Chewing movements were measured by time (sec), number of cycles, and a time/cycle ratio. A chewing cycle was defined as an upward and downward movement of the chin. Total time from the moment food was placed in the mouth until the final swallow occurred was divided by the number of cycles counted for the same period.
Age and sex did not affect time, cycles, or the time/cycle ratio. However, the measures were strongly affected by the type of food eaten. These findings suggest that the texture of food strongly influences both the number of chewing cycles performed and the time used for chewing.
The occupational therapist administering eating evaluations to children should carefully choose the foods offered for initial evaluations and use the same food consistently during reevaluations.