Learn how to teach your baby to chew with these 5 surprising tips! I’m also talking about chewing problems in toddlers…
It’s one of those things we take for granted or don’t think about much. We assume our babies will know how to chew when it comes time to feed them. And, while that’s certainly the case for a lot of babies, it isn’t for all. Some babies seem to have no interest or can’t figure out what they need to be doing when that food hits their tongue.
Sometimes a little practice is all that’s needed, other times, it turns into a road block and a baby will want to keep sucking down their milk around the clock or swallowing mashed baby food whole.
But, chewing is important for babies and toddlers. And, just like walking and talking, you can teach your baby how to chew!
What If I Don’t See My Baby Chewing?
It’s important not to panic if you don’t see your baby chewing though. Sometimes, they really do need a little more time, especially if they were born at 38 weeks or less.
You’ll also want to make sure you’re watching your baby closely while they’re eating because it can be really easy to miss the little munching up and down inside their tiny mouths. Plus, you likely won’t see any chewing at all on baby food.
What you do want to see, even by 6 months old, is that they’re chewing on toys and teethers, frequently. And, if you don’t, then you’re in the right place to learn how to help your baby start chewing.
When Should a Baby Start Chewing?
Babies begin to chew on their hands, toys, and teethers around 4 – 6 months old. Typically, babies become obsessed with putting everything in their mouth. It’s a bit of a stressful time for parents because they won’t discriminate between that gross fuzzy or piece of dog food they found on the floor.
But, this is how they explore the world at this age, through their mouth!
As they put the toys into their mouth, you’ll probably see them moving it from side to side and biting up and down. They will get a lot of practice chewing like this so that, by 7-8 months, they are ready to begin chewing some real foods at meals.
Just like with any milestone, it’s totally normal for babies to need some more time. It may not be until 9 or 10 months when they figure the whole chewing thing out. But, we do look for chewing and eating table foods by 11 months.
The cool thing is that if babies have practiced chewing on teethers and toys, there’s a window between 8 and 11 months when they instinctively know how to chew. That’s not to say they’ll never chew if they haven’t begun by 12 months or later, but it will take more direct teaching. That’s where the tips below will be even more critical!
Check out Feeding Milestones to learn more about when your child “should” be eating what.
Affiliate links used below. See our full disclosure.
5 Tips to Teach Baby to Chew
These tips will set the foundation for and help your baby learn to chew. They’re perfect whether you’re looking to take a proactive approach and help your baby transition smoothly to eating table foods, or, if your concerns are growing because your baby, or toddler, isn’t chewing yet.
If you’re in the latter situation, these tips are just the tip of the iceberg, there are more advanced strategies. If you feel you need more support, as an occupational therapist myself, I’d recommend looking into feeding therapy.
1. Use Teethers and Toys: As you just learned, all that practice babies do while chewing on teethers and toys is important. It’s laying the groundwork for them to eventually eat foods. But, some babies skip this step. Sometimes, it’s because of the way toys feel in their mouth and they don’t like it so they avoid it, this is due to their sensory processing. If you suspect this is the cause, then read more in sensory issues with food.
Other babies avoid teethers because it’s tiring and difficult. In this case, it’s probably because of their oral motor skills.
And yet, other babies won’t use them because they just aren’t interested. No matter what the reason is, it’s important that you encourage and demonstrate chewing on teethers often.
If they allow you bring the teether up to their mouth, or if they like baby food, you can even dip some of the teether into the baby food for them to lick off! Try different styles of teethers and toys, there are a ton. This is one of my favorites.
Head over to Why Your Baby Should Be Putting Toys in Their Mouth for more.
2. Practice on Large Foods: If your baby won’t go for the teethers, another option is to use large pieces of food that they can’t eat, but can mouth on. Think about a whole, peeled carrot or a long stalk of celery. Again, you can dip these in baby food or just let your baby explore it.
Use these large pieces of food while they’re seated in their high chair, at the same time you’re eating! If your baby already has teeth, make sure they can’t get any pieces off though, if they can, you’ll have to skip this step because they don’t have the skills to chew hard foods like that yet.
3. Demonstrate: You’ll be putting yourself ahead of the game if you can coordinate when your baby is eating, even if it’s just baby food, with your mealtimes. When you have just one child it can be tempting to feed them at a separate time, but in that shared meal time, they are learning a lot.
Not to mention that down the road it will save you frustration over getting them on a mealtime routine.
Plus, as you sit and eat together your baby is watching you, even if it seems they aren’t. They are see how you chew and will want to imitate it. To really show them how to chew, you’ll want to put one piece of food in your mouth at a time and dramatically chew for them – WITH – your mouth open.
Yes, I know it’s gross, but nobody else is watching, and if they are who cares, you’re teaching your baby!
4. Brush Their Gums/Teeth: One of my favorite tips to encourage chewing is to start brushing your baby or toddler’s gums 2 times a day with an infant toothbrush, like this one. While this sounds like a strange suggestion, it helps them get used to having something else in their mouth and it stimulates movement in their tongue.
Tongue movement is critical for chewing, and many kiddos struggling to chew aren’t moving their tongue well.
This brushing, with a firm pressure, also prepares the mouth for accepting more textures and even helps to desensitize the gag reflex!
5. Give Them the Right Foods: Lastly, once they are around 8 months old, it’s time to start trying some real foods. You’ll want to skip stage 3 baby foods that have the mixed chunks in them. That’s a difficult texture for a lot of babies, some will gag, some will throw up, and some will spit out the chunks or hold them in their mouth.
Instead, you’ll want to focus on crunchy foods that melt easily. Think puffs, graham crackers, and rice husks. In any grocery store you can find a mountain of these stage 1 table foods that are perfect to help babies learn to chew.
Head over to how to transition to table foods to learn next steps.
Chewing Problems in Toddlers
It’s common for me to see toddlers that missed that window for learning to chew and are still struggling to at up to 2 years old and even beyond. If that’s your child, know that it’s never to late to teach them how to chew.
For one and two year olds specifically, all of the above tips are still appropriate and will help bridge that gap to chewing. But, if your child is over 12 months and is only drinking milk or eating baby foods, it’s time to look for some more help. If you’re in the states, you may qualify for free early intervention.
And, the same difficulties I listed above for babies not wanting to chew on teethers, applies to difficulty eating. It could be sensory, oral motor, or even medical based. You can learn more in 5 Reasons Kids Don’t Eat.
Get More Help in This Free Workshop
To learn more about teaching your baby to eat, grab a free seat in my workshop: 5 Big Feeding Mistakes That Are Stopping Your Child From Learning to Eat Table Foods. You’ll learn exactly what NOT to do and even more tips to get your baby or toddler on the path to eating well. We’ll send you a free printable workbook in your inbox too!
Click here to get your seat now!
More on Feeding Babies and Toddlers
Self-Feeding: The Complete Guide for Babies and Toddlers
Why You Should Let Your Baby (or toddler) Get Messy Eating
Does Your Baby or Toddler Keep Spitting Out Their Food? Try This!
Alisha Grogan is a licensed occupational therapist and founder of Your Kid’s Table. She has over 14 years experience with expertise in sensory processing and feeding development in babies, toddlers, and children. Alisha also has 3 boys of her own at home. Learn more about her here.
My son is 3 years ,8 months old.
He is not able to chew food.
He has difficulty in moving the food inside mouth with help of tongue.
He chews but with teeth only.He doesn’t know how to put food inside teeth with the help of tongue after biting food.
If he swallows even little food that is not meshed then he gets gag reflex and will do vomiting.
We are tring with Z vibe.
Thanks for reaching out! That sounds pretty stressful for you. Tongue movement and oral motor skills definitely play a big part in chewing. Here’s a great resource for some activities to do at home. A lot of them will address tongue movement as well!
My child also same problem
Please tell me
What I do 🥲🥲
I’m sorry to hear that your child is having similar issues with chewing. Chewing and swallowing are oral motor skills that sometimes need extra training! Try using a vibrating toothbrush inside your child’s mouth to help stimulate their tongue muscles, or have them make silly faces- this will exercise all the muscles in their face! These activities will help them become more familiar with their oral motor skills, which will then help them chew their food better. For more tips, check out this post
which contains many more oral motor activities to try!
Born premature baby in 32 weeks. Now, 2 Years and 5 months old. Got teeth and still not chewing the food. If the food is soft, He is swallowing just like that. If little hard, either he doesn’t eat or he would vomit since the hard particles make him inconvenience on direct swallowing. Advise on hot to develop the habit of chewing..
When teaching to chew it can be helpful to use a mirror and also to demonstrate an over exaggerated chew. We love dissolvable solids like puffs or graham crackers to start with! If he’s still having trouble with chewing and especially swallowing, you might check in with the doctor to make sure something else isn’t going on. We also have a free Table Foods Workshop that would be a helpful starting point. You can save your seat HERE.
My son is 15 months old and will not chewing anyhting not even puffs. He just holds those in his mouth and then spita it out. He is still on stage 2 purees and on 9 oz of formula every 3 hours because he’s not eating any real food. I have talked to his pediatrician multiple times about it. He’s also only saying 1 word “dada” so he has sent a referral in for a speech therapist. Still waiting on the call to set an appointment up with them. What can I expect from goimg to this therapy. Will it help him learn to chew. I try everyday to practice it with him but it scares me to death. How can I help him. I’m desperate.
It can be so difficult when our toddlers are having a difficult time learning to chew! You might try demonstrating an over exaggerated chew while she is eating. Sometimes it can be helpful for our little ones to actually see what they are supposed to do. We also have a free workshop about transitioning to table foods. It would be a great place for you to start! You can save your seat HERE. Please reach out if you have any questions!
My 5 years old isnt chewing his food and it makes him vomit
It can be really frustrating when our kiddos gag and vomit when eating! There are a few reasons this might be happening, most commonly-difficulty with sensory processing skills or difficult with oral motor skills. There are other underlying medical conditions that can cause this as well. We have a post about gagging that might be helpful for you to check out! I hope that helps!
I have a 3.5 year old daughter who refuses to chew Do demonstrations of chewing Been to speech pathologist Was over 5 weeks premature She had reflux Uses her tongue Only has 2 molars each side and bottom and top She will suck on food but not bite or chew Refuses chunky foods or if I feed her she gets upset She will swallow whole and may vomit Have signed up for workshop and got email but no link for Worksop
It sounds like that has been a challenge for you guys! We’re so happy to hear that you found our workshop! You might check your spam folder, sometimes the link likes to hide out there! If you’re still having trouble finding it, reach out to us again. Demonstrating an over exaggerated chew can be really helpful. We also suggest starting off with dissolvable solids like graham crackers or Gerber puffs when teaching chewing.
Hi, My 15 month old boy is not chewing mashed foods,he rejects and cries and gag. He can chew puffs cheerios in count 10 to 15 and finely chopped fruits like apples pears a few feedings 2 or 3 times. I still breast feeding him and on stage 3 foods. I do 1/4 th of rice mashed and 3/4 th of rice in blended. He is able to swallow thickly mixed cereal ,he is able to drink from open cup.but not interested in viewing pls help
Thanks for reaching out! It can be stressful when our kiddos take a while to learn to chew. Modeling chewing with his back teeth can be really helpful. Since he’s already eating puffs, those are a great choice to make sure he’s using those teeth! We have a free table foods workshop that would be really helpful to give you some more ideas. You can save your seat HERE. Let us know if you have any questions!
This sounds EXACTLY like my son! Ugh. It’s scary and frustrating.
We know that teaching a little one to chew can be really frightening sometimes! If you are trying all these suggestions and you still aren’t having success, you might chat with your kiddo’s doctor to see if something else is going on.
Hello hope u got the help ur needed with ur lil baby
Hi Kelsie, would you please update on your son situation? Is he eating now, saying more words? My son is exactly the same age and only says dada, chews but doesn’t use molar teeth- just eats soft food. Thank you
my son is 2 year 2 months old and does not chew at all. i am still making very soft very well cooked food for him and spoon feed him. he only can bite cookies or baby munchies from Gerber but does not chew with his molar teeth. i give salmon mashed with other boiled vegies/rice and i cant give him chicken because he cant swallow that and cant chew that. he is also having speech delay and i am taking him to speech specialist which is not that helpful. Any suggestion will be very helpful as it is making me very stressful seeing other babies of same age eating big chunk food by themselves and i still have to spoon feed my son.
It can be really tough to teach our little ones to chew! You might try imitating chewing and using meltable solids (like graham crackers or Gerber Puffs) those are the easiest for little ones to learn with. We also have a post with some oral motor activities that might be helpful for your son. I hope that helps!
thanks a lot for your reply. surely will go through the Oral motor activities article.
You are welcome! I hope it helps 🙂
Rinku, would you please update your son’s situation? Is he eating or talking now? My boy has the similar issues. Thank you
I am trying different food texture to check if my son can chew e.g. toasted bread with mayonnaise, scrambled egg etc. We are constantly showing him how to chew but he is not chewing all the time. However I would say his chewing has been improved a bit since I started using Chewing tube and Nuke brush massage on him once per day(as I don’t get time to do it more often). Also I am massaging his gum once per day. Please use these techniques and hopefully you will get benefit.
hi my baby is 1 year and 6 months when is eating sometimes is chewing and most of the time he swallow immediately, now my mother and brother just recently notices that when he is lying down he puts his legs up and his legs become too much hard and he will cry,,what is the cause of this one?please help me.Looking forward to your reply. Thanks you so much
Chewing can be a tricky skill for some kids to learn! You might try modeling the chewing, sometimes it can help kids see what they are supposed to do. Using one of the baby mesh bags can also be helpful in making sure your little one isn’t swallowing too big of a piece. We also have a Table Foods free workshop that you might find helpful! You can save your seat HERE.
My son is 18 months old and is having issues chewing. He’s never shown interest in feeding himself table foods, so we are still feeding him baby foods. He will only feed himself puffs and small baby crackers, which he can chew. However, when we feed him baby food he sometimes chokes on the smallest spoonful and coughs so hard he’ll vomit. It’s so stressful seeing him like that, we’re not sure how to help. He seems to know how to chew, but just won’t take that next step. I’m not sure which foods to try next and worry that he won’t eat at all unless we’re feeding him. Any help is so appreciated!
So glad that you reached out! I would work on trying to get him to touch/play/interact with foods and purees (even outside of mealtimes) as touching is the first step to eating. But also, we do have a free workshop that walks you through which foods to do first, next, etc.. as well as some other helpful strategies if they are gagging, etc. You can save your seat HERE
I read your article and different comments. My daughter is 18 month old, and she had colic issues from the beginning. So i started giving purée food when she was 6month old and for some reason she got used to it. I give her different texture foods but pretty much she swallows the food other than snacks. In the meal time she sits with her sister and eats together. She picks rice one by one and puts in her mouth as it is easy to swallow. If i give a lump of rice she just spits it out and doesn’t allow me to feed. she wants to pick 1 by 1 and swallow it. So even now i purée the rice with vegetables to a grainy consistency and when i feed her she swallows it. Coming to fruits and snacks and eggs, she bites tiny tiny and chews and eat. For instance, she likes strawberry and she bites and eats so tiny where she takes 20 mins to eat the strawberry. So she eats very less quantity of snack as she take long time to finish up the one she have in hand. She also chews some soft foods but not the rice and Indian breads.
Thanks for reaching out! I’d follow up with some of the tips in the article. Also, providing the smaller bites that she can manage will be helpful as she is working through learning to eat bigger bites of food as well!
Hi, my girl is 2.5year old. She doesn’t chew food, she only swallows. I need to grind rice along with dal and rasam to bring it to cerelac consistency, then only, she swallows. If it’s little bit thick, she vomits. Im trying to feed her solid foods, she is not accepting. When I give her biscuits or namkeens, she is biting with her teeth but not chewing. I need to feed her purees only and also she is not drinking water or milk from glass. I’m still using feeding bottles for that and also, while brushing, she is is not spitting it out and not gargling water.. all these concerns I have with her..
She is very good at speaking, learning and all those. She learnt alphabet, numbers upto 20, 7 to 8 rhymes, slokas etc. When I ask her to chew, she is saying no. I’m not understanding what to do… I’m very much depressed and feeling stressed.. please help me…
We understand how hard this can be! I’d start with the steps in the article with working on her chewing on other teethers/hard toys so that she can get some practice in how to chew. Also, overexaggerating what you are doing and making it “fun” can be really helpful as well.
Awwww Hi, thank Goodness for you. XxxX.
Iv just found you through Google search looking for advice/tips on how to get my 2 yr old son to swallow his food (Pocketing)
I am scared he will choke on food left in his mouth if I’m not the one feeding him (which is not always possible). Both my husband and I work shifts around his care, however, there are times when my sister also looks after him that’s only if we don’t have a cross over shift, it would only be for an hour or so but it’s around dinner time 4-5 or 5-6 pm.
I have read a few things on pocketing from my Google searches, however, I’m not really understanding it; I get that the child holds the food in their mouths and won’t or can’t swallow. I have found while researching various sites and discussion on pocketing a lot of information changes to discussing picky eaters. He’s not a picky eater and will try absolutely anything but he holds it in his little mouth. I have tried asking him to show me that its gone which he does opening his mouth but I can see the food in his little jaws. I tried giving him sips of water from a cup to help him swallow the food, it kinda helps a little bit but he still holds most of the food in his little jaws like a hamster. I given him smaller/ larger pieces to chew, iv given him small individual plain chunks/ mashed, or mashed together pieces, a spoon of yoghurt in between bites of food and he still hoards it in his little jaws. He will feed himself using his hands or spoon I’m at a loss I actually haven’t got a clue what to do for him. I am hoping you can advise me please xxxxxxx
So glad that you found us! In the article that you posted you can check out the steps for getting him to chew. However we do have an article on “pocketing” food you can check it out here. I’d try to determine why he is pocketing the food to then find the appropriate strategies. He may be doing it for some sensory input, so I’d look into suggestions from the article for that as well. Let us know if you have any questions after!
Hi, my baby boy is 2.6 yr old. He chews some foods like biscuit, carrots, but never chew roti, he always try to gulp it as it is. What can i do to make him chew his roti .?
Hey Thanks for reaching out! I’d still use the same strategies that are in the article for the foods that he’s not chewing. You can try to place it on his side molars also to help with chewing and moving it in his mouth!
Hi, my baby is 2.5 years old and he still doesn’t chew. I have tried everyway to teach him to chew. But of no help, i am even sending him for occupational therapy since last one month. While its helping a lot with him learning new things, chewing problem remains the same. He wants to eat only semi liquid food that he can swallow easily and if even that is thick in texture, he seems to throw up. Also, he doesn’t use his hands to eat. He wants other person to feed him.
As a baby, he hardly put his hands in his mouth. Never bit on any teethers. I used to put carrot in his mouth with my hands to chew but he never chew that too.
I would discuss the chewing with your OT since they have eyes on him and what is happening. I’d try to also follow the suggestions in the article for working through it. It sounds like he’s also not wanting to touching/get messy so I’d try some play in different textures outside of mealtimes to work on it!
I have a 19 month old who does not chew on his food. He does like to bite with his front two teeth though. If we offer something that we’re eating, he usually does not eat it but when he does, he puts too much in his mouth and gags. He moves the food around with his tongue but does not chew on it. He is a fussy eater overall and does not like to eat liquids (except water which he loves) or solids.
Thanks for reaching out. I’d try to start working on meltables to work on the chewing (foods that melt when placed in your mouth such as graham crackers and townhouse crackers. These and help with getting the biting and feeling where things are in your mouth to work on the chewing skills!
My son is 7 months and having smooth purée, I tried a couple times giving him thicker texture but he did not like it, can h have some advice please
I’d keep on trying the thicker texture as it can take some time for them to adjust. We know how hard this period can be! We do also have a free workshop for transitioning to table foods, and helps you with some steps to get there. You can save your seat HERE
Hai.. My baby boy 2year old.. He still neva started 2eat rice..he can eat mango fruits whn he hungry. My baby teeth first n second molar still not growing.. Otherwise he drinking milk ony.. Im worry about my bby.. Wat I can try 2my bby boy?
Thanks for reaching out! I wouldn’t be concerned about when his teeth are coming in, in regards to eating, kids do really well with chewing with using their gums! So happy to hear that he is eating some fruit that you are providing, that’s great! We do have a free workshop that can help with providing strategies for eating of newer foods! You can save your seat HERE
Hi ,my son is 15 months old and he is still not chewing and swallowing everything.I’m giving him food of every consistency but he is not chewing and swallowing everything.he keeps food in his mouth for a little bit time and when he feel he can swallow comfortably. he swallow it.if he can’t swallow then he spit it out.what should i do.we are taking occupational therapy for that but it is not helping.will speech therapy work?
So sorry you are dealing with this. We understand how hard it can be! Different occupational and speech therapists work on feeding, so it depends where you are and who has training. However, we do have a free workshop that walks you through transitioning to table foods and working on chewing. It’ll help with some strategies that you may not be doing yet. You can save your seat here
My son Is 2 years and 1 month and doesn’t chew his food. He swallows his noodles and pasta or any soft food I give him. If he notices any texture in the food he gags and vomits everything. We have been trying with him for a long time, and it is still the same which is really exhausting and stressful. He actually imitates his cousin why eating, but he doesn’t just chew only suck on it and eventually throw it away. He doesn’t eat fruits, veggies or any protein because he won’t chew on them, only to suck.
That sounds really challenging for you guys! In those cases, sometimes it can be helpful to place the food (a dissolvable solid like graham crackers works well) on his molars to encourage him to use his teeth vs tongue. Be sure to check out our free table workshop. It sounds like it would be a great fit for you. You can save your seat HERE.
Hello – My daughter’s (10 months) pediatrician brings me to your website. The pediatrician wasn’t able to answer my concerns so I have no choice but to seek other resources.
Trying to make fun recipes for my daughter has been overwhelming. I started giving her steamed veggies and fruits at 9 months due to the fear of choking. My goal is to diversify what she eats to give her all the nutritional benefits which she may be lacking now.
I skipped finger foods the size of my pinky and went straight to small cubes because I was afraid that she would take a big bite and choke. Isn’t this a valid concern? I read over and over that I should cut foods the size of a chickpea yet if I serve a stick-sized finger food (per safety recommendations) the size of my pinky, wouldn’t it be a probability that she would take a big bite and then choke on a piece she did not anticipate? I have seen her take a big bite of scrambled egg and gag. I would like to start giving her new foods like toast and broccoli, which I would cut into strips or leave the broccoli as is (but steamed) but have a concern about the aforementioned probability and also the texture as toast is not soft like a steamed vegetable.
Eggs: I would like the serve hard boiled eggs but she seems to have trouble with hard boiled eggs that are cut into small pieces. How do I get over this?
Pasta: Similarly, wouldn’t babies choke on penne paste (for example) because it could slide into their throats?
Hello, So glad that you found our website!! I can totally understand the fear of choking, as we as parents all have this fear. Do know that your child with gag on some foods as this is a learning process and there is a difference between gagging and choking!! I would focus on looking more at the right foods to start with, so that your daughter has practice chewing and both you and her will then be ready for the next foods. Check out number 5 in the article. Once she is able to chew/manage those foods, then you can move onto softer foods. I’d recommend checking out our free workshop, as it provides suggestions for transitioning to table foods and provides you with some recommendations on foods to offer, and move from there. You can save your seat here
I just found your article from google and that feels like you can or may be help me out from worst situation.
My son is 22 months old and we seeing OT, speech pathologist from last 3 months and we trying to do what they say but can’t see any improvement. He don’t know how to chew and swallow everything. Has sensory issues too like not to put anything in his mouth or scared from things. And even don’t get hungry as we tried not to give food for almost 18 hours and still refusing food or milk so finally we gave him with distraction of tv. All doctors saying just keep trying but my wife is very very possessive about him and cos of that we fight a lot so please suggest what to do. Really appreciable for feedback.
Thanks for reaching out to us! I’d follow through with the suggestions in the article. Working on him to be accepting of teethers and tooth brush in his mouth as these are a great place to start. I’d also be working on getting him interested in playing with foods outside of mealtime to get him touching and interacting with them. Also working on meltables can be a great place to start, since they melt in your mouth but helps work on where foods needs to be placed for chewing.