Did you know that aside from the commonly known senses like smell, touch, taste, see, and hear we also have some other senses that really effect our daily life? One of these other senses is called proprioception. When a child gets firm, gentle muscle pressure, the proprioception sense is at work! Proprioceptive input can be calming and organizing for children’s brains (and adults too!).
Chewing bubble gum is a way to engage the proprioceptive system and this can be a major trick for helping children to regulate themselves (or calm themselves down when they are dysregulated aka hyper/overexcited/stressed etc.)
I learned about this bubble gum trick from the bubble gum queen herself, Dr. Karyn Purvis when I was a camp buddy for kids at The TCU Hope Connection Camp, a therapeutic day camp for internationally adopted children. Dr. Purvis was an expert in helping children from hard places and children who had experienced trauma. Dr. Purvis would greet new children at camp with a friendly smile and a playful tone of voice and introduce herself as The Bubble Gum Queen! Dr. Purvis knew that play reduces fear and many of the children who came to the camp were fearful of new situations and new people due to frightening people and places in their past. Dr. Purvis also knew that when children chew bubble gum it engages their proprioceptive sense and helps the children’s brains calm and organize. In fact, Dr. Purvis would let children get multiple pieces of bubble gum because the bigger the chew the more calming the effect was due to the firm muscle pressure.
Dr. Purvis also used bubble gum as a way to help children learn to use their words and give good eye contact. For a child who acts out to get their needs met instead of using their words, learning to communicate their needs with words is life changing for the child and the parent. Dr. Purvis would gladly give a child bubble gum if they “used good words and gave good eyes”. Dr. Purvis always praised good words and good eyes by saying things like “oh I just love good words and those sweet eyes”. She would give the child choices by playfully saying “do you think you need one piece of gum or two pieces” to help you calm down? Karyn Purvis truly was a child whisperer! She and Dr. David Cross’s (who is also amazing!) book “The Connected Child” is a must read for anyone who cares for children.
So…if you are a teacher, you may want to consider letting your students chew a double bubble during testing time to help with testing anxiety. This can also help hyper children or children with ADHD be able to calm and regulate themselves during long periods of sitting and focusing. If you get the kind of bubble gum with different flavors see which types of flavors the children prefer. It turns out that sweet flavors are calming and sour flavors are alerting. A child who likes sour flavors may do well with the sour gum because it will keep them awake and alert during their test taking. Just provide them with a tissue at their desk so that if they need to spit it out they don’t have to get up to throw it away and disrupt the class. Also make sure they know that bubble blowing is not allowed…until after the test of course 🙂
If you are a parent or caretaker…you may want to purchase a big tub of double bubble and keep a baggie of gum in your purse for times when you need your children to regulate and calm themselves. For kids who are old enough not to choke (please don’t give bubble gum to kids who will choke) you might want to give your child bubble gum in the car to help them calm down. Make it fun- your children can have contests of who can blow the biggest bubble, what a fun car ride activity! (give them a tissue incase they need to spit it out during the ride) Need to go on a long shopping spree and need your children to behave? BUBBLE GUM might be your best friend! Obviously kids need good nutrition and should eat healthy snacks on the regular but bubble gum can be a secret weapon for you when you need to help your child regulate! Teaching them how to dispose of their gum properly is also important but be playful about it (lets see who can spit their gum the best into the trashcan!) Having your kids brush their teeth frequently is also a must. Although there are many sugar haters out there…it turns out there may be more benefits than cons to the MAGIC bubble gum trick!
HAVE A BUBBLELICIOUS DAY! 🙂