Mouthing is particularly important for children who may have had some unpleasant experiences with things in their mouth, like feeding tubes, suctioning or oral surgery. Through mouthing, they can discover that things can actually feel pleasant in their mouth, especially if they have control over it themselves.
The other reason that mouthing is important is that it helps to desensitise a child’s gag reflex. In babies, the gag is triggered when an object touches the back 2/3 of the tongue. This is essential for a young baby who is not developmentally ready to manage solid foods. Through mouthing, this gag reflex becomes less sensitive and eventually the gag is only triggered when food is stuck on the back 1/3 of the tongue.
Teething toys are great for mouthing, but they may also mouth their own fingers, wet or dry cloths, toothbrush trainers, a gum massager and appropriate toys (good size, no small moveable parts).
Mouthing should be led by the child as much as possible, and should always be child responsive (i.e. let them be in control and never force something into their mouth)