Tactile Defensive Activities for Children

By Eliza Martinez
Clothing can be uncomfortable for a tactile defensive child.
Clothing can be uncomfortable for a tactile defensive child.

A tactile defensive child is sensitive to touch, to a much higher degree than a child without the condition. If your child suffers from tactile defensiveness, he probably dislikes certain types of clothing against his skin, doesn't care for having tags in his clothes, hates being touched and doesn't enjoy the sensation of grass or sand on his feet. Activities at home can help your child come to terms with different textures and get used to touching and being touched.

Heavy Work

Heavy work, which gets your child's body moving, helps activate inhibitory nerve cells, according to Jill Howlett Mays, author of "Your Child's Motor Development Story." This reduces tactile defensiveness by making more nerves available to absorb touch. Babies benefit from tummy play and rolling. Older kids can jump, belly crawl, climb, do pushups, sit on a bean bag chair or push and pull heavy objects. Running and playing with a weighted ball are other ideal activities.

Making a Mess

Most parents dread the daily messes that children make, but for a tactile defensive child, this type of play is ideal for helping reduce her sensitivity to different textures. Bright Hub Education suggests playing in shaving cream. Squirt a blob onto a large plastic tray or cookie sheet and let your child draw in it and squish it between her fingers. Finger painting on paper is another good option. Glitter glue, foam, silly string, salt dough and clay offer similar benefits because your child can manipulate them with her hands and fingers as she gets used to their texture.

Sensory Table

Most preschool classrooms have a sensory table filled with a variety of items with different feels. Children are allowed to play with the items in the table. This is ideal for kids with tactile defensiveness because it exposes them to a variety of different textures. Buy a small sand and water table and let him splash around, dump and pour with small plastic containers. Let him pack sand into containers or let it run through his fingers. Fill the table with feathers, rice, beans, jingle bells, pine cones, knobby balls and Styrofoam peanuts. For younger children, watch carefully to make sure your little one doesn't put them into his mouth because he could choke.

Parent Interaction Activities

There are some things you can do with your tactile defensive child at home that help reduce her aversion to touch. Use a mild lotion to give her a light massage after her bath or before bed, suggests Child-Behavior-Guide.com. Use a light touch, since she might not enjoy this activity, and don't force it if she fights you. Use a variety of sponges or cloths to wash her body with in the tub or give her several to wash herself with. Use a vibrating massager to stimulate your child's skin and get her used to the sensation.

About the Author

Eliza Martinez has written for print and online publications. She covers a variety of topics, including parenting, nutrition, mental health, gardening, food and crafts. Martinez holds a master's degree in psychology.