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Teaching children to manage their saliva  This resource has been viewed by a moderator.

Early years skill:not specified
Early years typical range:not specified
P-scales/Curriculum skill:not specified
P-scales/Curriculum level:not specified
TAP skill:not specified
TAP level:not specified
Pre/Nat. Curriculum Area:not specified
Pre/Nat. Curiculum Standard:not specified
Phonology/Articulation:Speech sounds
Section:Early Years (0-5yrs) info; Primary (5-11yrs) info
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Many children with speech and language difficulties have a tendency to dribble. This can impact on the clarity of their speech making it difficult to understand what the child is saying. If the child’s chin has dribble on it, it can make them look unpleasant and make other people less likely to talk to the child. A perpetually damp chin can also make the child’s face very sore, particularly during the winter. Some children wipe their chins with their clothes. This looks unpleasant and also leaves the child with damp clothing. They need to be helped to manage their saliva in a more appropriate way.

Useful resources:

  • Pictures of faces for colouring
  • Pens/crayons etc
  • Face paints
  • Tissues
  • Hand puppet with an opening mouth
  • Star chart/ stickers

Excess saliva in the mouth

What to do:

  1. Check the child knows where their mouth is. E.g. pointing, colouring pictures, face paints, looking at puppet etc.;
  2. Remind the child to swallow every time you notice they have lots of saliva. You may have to do an exaggerated swallow to show them what is needed. Don’t forget to praise them for doing it spontaneously. Some children may need a star chart for this.


Some children may dribble. Teaching them how to deal with this can reduce the amount of dribbling, and help them manage it if it does occur.

  1. Make sure you have lots of tissues available. Using the puppet, demonstrate how to mop up dribble. The best way to do this is to take one tissue and fold it up to make a firm, compact bunch of tissue. Press (don’t wipe) the tissue on the corners of the mouth and at all points along the lips. Put the tissue in the bin at the end.
  2. Ask the child to show you how to mop up dribble using the puppet.
  3. The child should always have access to tissues. Remind them to mop up their dribble when necessary. Praise them for doing it spontaneously.

The reasons we encourage children to press rather than wiping the tissue are:

  • Wiping can make the face sore, particularly in cold weather;
  • The sensation of wiping the tissue (especially a large, fluffy bundle of tissue) against the face can cause more saliva to be produced.

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