Infants & Toddlers: The Power of Touch

How to ensure that every child gets the loving contact he needs.

  • Grades: Early Childhood, PreK–K

INFANTS

BABIES THRIVE ON LOVING TOUCH. Babies who are rarely touched have brains 20% smaller than babies who are touched a lot.

FEEDING AND DIAPERING TIMES: TOUCH TIMES PAR EXCELLENCE!

Newborn babies are happiest being held all day long; your loving, encircling arms soothe and reassure them. Because there are several babies in a group, you need to make sure each one gets "touching time" all through the day. Be sure to hold your babies for bottles. Rocking and letting them curl a hand around your finger provides the right recipe for a baby to feel relaxed and ready to feed!

Diapering time is an excellent chance to fill up a baby's "touch quotient" for the day. Caress Baby's tummy, arms, and legs. Touch Baby's bottom gently as you clean and diaper him. Sit Baby up to see himself in a mirror placed right at the diapering table. Then as you hold his back and exclaim how handsome he looks, Baby will feel your sturdy supporting arm as he sees your admiring smile as well as his own in the mirror.

TOUCHES TEACHES BODY BOUNDARIES

Touch puts invigorating boundaries on a baby's body. As you caress an infant, she wriggles with joy. She thrusts her legs out over and over and coos happily. When you caress a baby with long palmar strokes, she feels where she is and where the outer world begins. You are giving the baby a chance to understand herself physically in space and in the world of others.

Every baby will enjoy being draped over your belly in the classroom rocking chair. Croon and relax. Baby will too!

A TASTE OF CALMNESS; A TASTE OF INTIMACY

Many babies have colic during the early months. Or they have gas or spit up a lot. To relieve tummy distress, massage is great! Take 10 minutes per day to massage each baby in your group who seems tense from colic or perhaps from separating from Mama. Use long "Swedish milking" and "Indian milking" strokes to massage each leg and arm. Use hand-over-hand palmar strokes slowly in a counter-clockwise direction to soothe Baby's tummy or relieve gas pains. After you have massaged Baby on one side, turn him over so that you can do long, swooping palmar strokes from his neck all the way down to his toes. Some babies particularly need massage strokes on the cheeks and around the mouth to ease teething pain and to lessen the chance of tension that leads to biting.

TODDLERS

TODDLERS ARE OFTEN ON THE GO. They do not want to lie patiently for a diaper change. They dash and fling and run, run, run. Yet they too need caresses and reassuring touches to anchor them in the world of loving, kindness, and caring that child care provides.

STORYTIME: A CHANCE FOR LAPTIME

Share picture books daily with your group of toddlers and be sure to provide generous snuggle space on your lap for a restless toddler who needs the security and relaxation that contact with you provides. Some toddlers will get comfort from just leaning up against you as you sit on the floor and share a picture book with the group.

Simple contacts during the day do a lot: A pat on the head or a caress on the cheek is a good way to express admiration when a toddler manages to finish a puzzle or has been generously sharing his crayons with another child, or has waited patiently while you dressed other toddlers for a romp on the playground outside. Sometimes toddlers have a tough time settling into naps. Rubbing their backs while you play low, soothing, slow music (or sing a slow song over and over again) helps settle tense little bodies into sleep.

LOVING TOUCHES BOOST EMOTIONAL HEALTH

Loving touches are the cornerstone to boosting emotional health. Be sure that you have a generous supply of caresses, kisses, hugs, lap times, shoulder carrying, and back rubs to create a harmonious, safe environment for your little ones.

  • Subjects:
    Child and Infant Care, Health and Safety, Social and Emotional Development, Learning and Cognitive Development, Physical Development
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