Activities to Help Babies and Toddlers Develop Their Sense of Touch
Baby uses their 8 senses every single day!
Many senses continue to develop and change even after we are born. Here we’ll learn more about the touch (tactile) sense, and how you can help baby develop this very important sense.
What is the touch sense?
The touch sense gives us information from our skin. When we touch something or are touched, we receive information about shape, size, texture, pressure, and temperature. And remember—this can be anywhere on our body that we have skin, which includes our mouths!
How do we use the touch sense?
In babies, this can be feeling the texture of the surface during Tummy Time, feeling your skin against theirs when being held, or feeling the textures of their favorite toy. In children, this can be wearing different textured clothes, or trying new play options like sand and finger paint. In adults we do this daily, to the point where we know what something will feel like before we touch it; think of how an apple feels; what about your pillow, or even the sidewalk?
At every age and stage, we feel our foods and drinks and even our toothbrush and toothpaste with the touch sense in our mouths. Think about how that could impact our preferences for what we eat and how we do self-care!
How can you help baby use their touch sense? Check out these games, which help with the touch sense.
Remember: safety first!
Always supervise baby while playing any of these games.
Recommended for 0-3 Months
- Beep Baby: Tap baby in different places and say the name of each body part. Then say “beep” or make another sound after each new body part you touch. They may start watching your hands and anticipating each touch. Helps baby develop their sense of touch and body awareness.
- Face Feelings: Grab a stuffed animal and talk to it. Touch its face. Name each part (nose, ears) you touch. Let baby feel the stuffed animal’s face and yours. Name what they touch. Then help them touch their own ears, mouth, etc., while you name each part.
- Sense of Touch: Baby’s sense of touch is fully developed at this stage. Try gently touching baby on feet and tummy. They should have reaction such as giggling or smiling.
Recommended for 4-6 Months
- Texture Time: Let baby touch fabric with different textures such as wool and velvet. Use a different word to describe each one to him: “soft”, “rough”, “smooth”. Baby won’t understand the meaning, but it’s still good to expose baby to new words.
- Toy Challenge #2: Show baby a favorite stuffed animal. Help them to touch it. Ask what it could be. Then tell them what it is. “It’s a kitty!”
- Messy Eater: Baby may be a messy eater at first, that’s ok! Let baby touch and play with their food to feel all of the different textures.
Recommended for 7-9 Months
- Backyard Fun: Let baby explore the backyard safely. Take baby outside and let them touch the leaves and grass.
Recommended for 10-12 Months
- Enjoy the Outdoors: Teach baby about the outdoors. Spread a soft blanket outside for you and baby to lie on. Ask if they see the trees or animals. Get them to hold and feel things found outside. Make sure baby does not place items in their mouth.
Recommended for 13-18 Months
- Pudding/Yogurt Painting: Instead of using regular paint, swap it out with pudding or yogurt. Let your toddler draw with these foods on a paper plate. This way, there’s no concern with your little one putting their fingers in their mouth.
- Bumpy Board Books: Try reading board books to baby with different colors and texture. Let them touch the different textures. Tell them words that are associated with what they’re feeling, e.g., “Rough, bumpy, soft,” etc.
- Sandbox: Bring your toddler to the beach or sandbox and let them play in the sand. Bring a small shovel and bucket for your toddler to play with.
Recommended for 19-24 Months
- Treasure Chest: Give your toddler their own drawer or box of “treasures.” These can be new toys from the dollar section or household objects they would find interesting. Let them pick a toy to play with.
- Peeling Tape: Put masking tape or stickers down on a table and have your toddler try to peel it off. Try to get them to only use the index finger and thumb to pick and peel the tape off the table. Help out by peeling up a small edge to start it off!
- Pom Pom Push: Cut holes into a lid on a box and have your toddler push pom poms or cotton balls through the holes. Different sized holes can create new challenges. Some they can drop, others they will have to push through. *Supervise baby during this activity
- Sidewalk Paint/Chalk: Sidewalk chalk is a fun reason to get outside and get a little messy without a big cleanup. Drawing scribbles on the sidewalk or driveway is a chance for your toddler to get creative and have fun.
- Melting Ice: Put water with drops of food coloring in an ice tray and freeze them. Let your toddler put the ice into a bin of room temperature water. The ice will melt and the color will spread out.
- Round Up the Balls: Get outside and put different sized balls on the ground. Set down a hula hoop and have your toddler gather the balls and put them inside the hoop.
- Playing with Play Dough and Clay: Giving your toddler play dough or clay to play with is a fun (and easy cleanup!) activity. Pushing the play dough or clay into different sized containers and then taking it out can also be fun.
- DIY Book: Make a do-it-yourself book by gluing different textures onto some pages. Add feathers, buttons, or sandpaper, to name a few, so your toddler can feel the different between rough and smooth, and hard and soft.
- Playing with Shaving Cream: Let your toddler smear shaving cream on the window. Start with a small area and then let them spread it along the window, having them draw squiggles in the cream with their fingers.