When the tactile sense is fully functioning, children are secure and organised enough in their bodies to be able to respond to all of the other sensory information they encounter each day.

They don’t tend to become distracted by the constant tactile input they are experiencing in any given moment (the wind on their face or the way their jacket feels on their arms) because they are able to filter out which tactile information is important and what’s not so important.

A child with a well-developed tactile sense engages in play easily with his peers and explores toys during group play.  She effortlessly participates in activities of daily living involving touch, including washing hands, brushing teeth, dressing, bathing, and mealtime routines.

However, not all kids have the same experiences.  Some children have difficulty with processing the tactile information they encounter in everyday life.  Some children that are sensitive to tactile input may avoid getting their hands or face messy, steering away from activities like finger painting, play dough, and even eating certain foods.

They may struggle with certain hygiene tasks and experience negative reactions or tantrums during toothbrushing, bathing, and haircuts.

Here are some ideas that provide opportunities for play and exploration using the tactile sense.  These activities are meant as fun ways to incorporate the tactile sense into everyday play and learning.

Fill up a large bucket or container with sand, peas, rice, pasta, water etc.  Once your kids have explored a little, try hiding objects in the bin and see how many they can find.  Add a cup to practice scooping, dumping, pouring, and shaking.  Have kids use their words to describe how the texture feels to them. Soft, yucky, shiny, hard, great, and more.

Have a fashion show with your little one using clothing with varying textures, for example a hat, shirt, pants, gloves, scarves, shoes etc. Make it into a game and maybe get them to race with their siblings or friends to see how many of the items they can put on in one minute?

It’s the perfect activity for whole body tactile input.  Any kind of water play makes for a great tactile experience: in the bath, in the sink, or just a big bowl of water on the floor.  Add sponges, cups, a watering can, and medicine syringes for more fun and exploration.

Perfect materials include play dough, clay, and finger paint.  Remember, you can play with more than just your hands.  Get little feet in on the action or let the kids paint their whole bodies before bath time.

Make a touch and feel book with a different page for each texture.  See if you can find something around the house or outside (a swatch of scrap fabric, craft paper, sticks, leaves) to glue onto the pages of your book as examples of smooth, rough, soft, hard, bumpy etc.

We know this can be hard on parents and caregivers but stay strong and remember that allowing your children to explore and get dirty, whether with an indoor cooking activity or playing outside in the mud (or in the rain!) helps develop a strong and healthy tactile system.