Touch is the first of the five senses that begins to develop while the baby is in the mother’s womb. It functions in such a way that external information is received through the receptors in the skin and transmitted to the brain, where there is a center in which they are recognized as sensations that are pleasant, soft, smooth, coarse, etc. or unpleasant, painful.
This sensation does not only apply to the baby’s current experience of touching objects, but also has longer-term effects on development.
Namely, touch as a collector of external information, participates in the process of learning the baby from an early age.
The experiences and the sensations gained through this sense are affecting the physical, cognitive, speech and socio-emotional development, which is why we need to provide the baby with a multitude of carefully selected objects and materials.
Babies who have been sufficiently hugged in the first 6 months are more likely to reach the developmental ladder, achieve better school performance, and are less prone to aggressive and inadequate behavior, compared to infants who had a small amount of hugs and a positive touch by the parents or carers .
In the first month after birth, the baby’s palms are squeezed and are being hold reflexively, without awareness of the characteristics of what is in his or her hand. Therefore, it should receive the first tactile sensations throughout the body as we hold it, while bathing, through light massages, caress, and with a proper selection of soft, cotton and blankets that we cover. Another source of sensations is the mouth, in the process of breastfeeding or bottle feeding.
About the second month the palms begin to spontaneously open slowly and it is time to introduce the first toys. They are soft, made of material, with vibrant colors, but may not necessarily emit sound. You don’t even have to buy expensive toys, but it’s enough to fold his socks into a ball and put it in his hand to hold them.
Towards the end of the third month and the beginning of the fourth month, the baby brings his hands near his eyes and observes them. So, it is good to give him a soft toy that emits a clanging sound, this will stimulate him to shake, clap or touch that toy with the other hand. Around this period the baby starts to reach his breast level, so it is a good practice to place various soft, safe toys and objects (small cushions, soft ball, teddy bear …) so she/he can touch them with both hands.
In the fifth month he begins to be a little more adept at grasping and manipulating them more safely. Move them a little further to stimulate coordination of movements.
In the following months of the first year the baby learns to sit, stand up and start walking. Use the touch as a stimulation to help him to get to know the objects of the environment (safe for him) as well as to adopt these postural positions
There are improvements in the way the baby grips and holds objects and also the fine motor skills are improving. It starts to notice and touch smaller details and smaller objects, take them out of the box, throw them away, scratch, trace…. these are all ways of examining them, so the choice of objects offered should be carefully considered because of his/hers safety.
About the type of materials, the function of the objects being offered, and the effects they have on the development of tactility, it should be known that:
• Fur, silk, sandpaper stimulate sensitivity
• Buttons improve thumb and index finger grip
• Knitted things stimulate palm grip
• Items that have opening and closing parts improve fine motor skills