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Therapy Tips

Seven Tips to Stop Your Child with Special Needs from Drooling

Drooling is an everyday issue for parents of infants and toddlers, especially when their child is teething or has a cold and is congested. But when drooling continues past those early years, it’s time for further investigation and treatment. First, check with your child’s pediatrician to make sure that there is no medical reason why your child is continuing to drool. Barring any medical explanation, drooling may be due to poor awareness in the mouth and/or decreased strength in the lips.

Poor Sensory Awareness

Many children lack sensory awareness in their facial muscles and don’t get the feedback that most of us do that saliva is near our mouths.

Four ways to increase sensory awareness in the mouth:

  1. Add sour and spicy foods like lemonade or salsa and cold foods such as frozen fruit or popsicles to the child’s diet to “wake up” the mouth.
  2. Use a vibration tooth brush or an infant vibration teether to stimulate the child’s mouth.
  3. Apply flavored lip balm (containing only edible ingredients) to increase awareness.
  4. Rub a variety of textured cloths around the child’s mouth.
Sometimes children just need a gentle reminder of the issue. Help them become aware of their drooling by deciding on a code word that alerts them to close their mouth.

Oral Motor Weakness

Weakness in the lips and the muscles that surround the mouth can also make it difficult for a child to keep their mouth closed, which leads to drooling.

Three ways increase lip and mouth muscle strength:

  1. Have your child hold a tongue depressor between their lips (without using their teeth) during times when they are concentrating on something, like drawing or story time.
  2. Encourage your child to drink out of a straw (without biting on it) or drink out of an open cup.
  3. Introduce simple oral motor exercises like blowing bubbles and horns, or play a game by blowing cotton balls across a table.

More Drooling Resources

Read the following articles for more fun activities that can help with drooling. If you child continues to drool excessively they may need a specific program of exercise. An occupational therapist that specializes in oral motor or oral placement therapy (OPT) can help.

Sticky-Tongue-Frog-Craft Sticky Tongue Frog Craft

Holly Homer & Rachel Miller are on a mission to reveal the kitchen junk drawer as a place of inspiration for kids' art, crafts, games and learning activities. This article shows you how to make a fun Sticky Tongue Frog. This activity helps a child work on oral motor exercises in a fun way.

Drippy MonsterDrippy Monsters

Create a fun "Drippy Monster"  with a straw and paint. In this article students use a straw to blow the paint to create the body, arms, and legs of their monster.

Cup RaceIndoor Games

This article from Almost Unschoolers describes how you can set up a cup race. The first one to blow their cup to the end of the line wins! Blowing is a great oral motor exercise and this activity will keep blowing fun and exciting!

WRITTEN ON January 29, 2014 BY:


Jessica Hunt is the director of occupational therapy and sensory integration programs at the Kaufman Children’s Center. She has extensive experience in pediatric occupational therapy and sensory integration in both the home and clinic settings. For more information on available programs, call 248-737-3430 or visit