A therapy-informed review of Chewbeads
If you've read any of our blog articles on choosing the right sensory supports for your child, you'll remember how often we talk about oral sensory input, or using the mouth as a way to help with sensory regulation. Occupational Therapists know that integration of the mouth and the suck, swallow, breathe sequence is critical to promote regulation with children who have sensory processing dysfunction. Chewing, sucking, and blowing are all motor movements that, especially when used safely in conjunction with other sensory activities, can play a key role in helping your child maintain focus, participation, and regulation. During times of transition or periods of uncertainty and anxiety, some children revert to sucking and chewing on clothing, hair, or fingers to self-soothe. While these times may be short-lived, they are an indication that your child needs oral sensory input to self-regulate and we want to give them more appropriate alternatives to do so! We've talked about adding chewy toys, whistles, thick straws, crunchy or chewy foods, and/or bubbles to your sensory tool box for oral sensory seekers, but what happens when your child gets a bit older and a bit more aware of needing something "different?"
For this exact reason, I'm always on the hunt for sensory tools that aren't stigmatizing. Who wants to carry around a chewy tube when you're a social 10-year old? Sure, the pencil-top chewables are less obvious, but sometimes they're easily forgotten. Wearable chewelry is the easiest way to replace oral sensory seeking behavior in children and adolescents who continue to chew beyond the typical "teething stage." Unfortunately, the reality is that some "therapy" stuff just isn't cool once kids start worrying about what their peers might think. So, how do you compromise to meet your child's oral sensory needs in a way that's fun, stylish, and cool?
I was inspired by my 7-year old nephew to find something cool for school that would save his shirt collars from a sudden, over-chewed death...and spare him the threat of ridicule from his friends! And so, the search began...
Chewbeads was founded by a fashion-forward mom and originally focused on the teething needs of babies and toddlers. It's since expanded to include a line of chew-friendly products for "juniors," mommy-accessories, and feeding supplies. I was drawn to the Junior Chewbeads line because of it's kid-friendly styles for both boys and girls. Colorful necklaces, bracelets, dog tags, and pendants that are actually adorable!! I wanted to see if the Chewbeads would hold up to some of my heavy-duty sensory chewers as well as the trendy eye of more typical kids I work with. A few emails later, my mailbox overflowed with the generous samples of the many styles that Chewbeads has designed to meet the sensory needs of style-minded kiddos and their moms!
Included in my sample pack were a couple of baby-friendly Mulberry teething rings. I love that these are dishwasher safe and made of all kid-safe materials! While these may be designed with infants and toddlers in mind, there is nothing babyish about them. Preschoolers and Kindergarteners can still keep the "cool factor" with a chewable Gameday Teether in their favorite team's logo (Go Red Sox!). For one of my frequent chewers, I've even attached one to a retractable tether so it's always attached to his belt-loop for easy access!
The dog tag necklaces - a shark tooth pendant, space man pendant, and military tag-style are the most discrete wearable chewbeads that I've found to appeal to boys. Let's be honest - it's hard to make necklaces that boys will actually wear - but these were right up my nephew's alley! His shirt collar-chewing habit was easily replaced with the Shark Tooth pendant and his friends DID think it was pretty cool after all! Resilient materials, relevant style, and quick release -- the 3 R's that make these the perfect choice for active boys!
Girls can be a bit easier to find stylish accessories for sensory needs, but the Chewbeads styles I received were by-far the most wearable! The Glow-in-the-Dark star-studded Broadway Jr., Spring Heart Necklace, and multicolored Christopher Jr. Necklace are beyond adorable! Again, with the exception of the silky ribbon, all were durable and held up well. The ribbon material was actually an added bonus that offered some tactile fidgeting opportunities for a couple of kiddos.
The bangle bracelets were colorful, stackable, and fashion-forward, but they were not the preferred oral sensory tools that I thought they had the potential to be. While little hands were busily engaged in learning, the bracelets weren't easily accessible unless those little hands were brought to mouths, so they acted more as tactile fidget tools than oral sensory tools.
With STAR Institute's research showing that 1 in 6 children has symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder, it's no wonder that consumers are looking for more style-inspired, kid-designed sensory products! Luckily, there are companies like Chewbeads who aim to meet the fashion and functional needs of sensory kiddos!
Thank you to Chewbeads for sharing their amazing products with us! We'd love to hear about your favorite chewable jewelry and how you're keeping your sensory kids in style!