As an infant takes on his world, he learns with all of his senses. In other words, he will not only be learning how something feels, he will be making his observations by tasting, seeing, hearing and smelling objects. You can help your infant navigate this wide new world by providing safe tactile experiences for your tiny explorer.
To get the most out of your infant’s tactile experiences, provide a wide variety of activities. As those little fingers lock onto something new, he will start to make the brain connections that tell him a block is hard, the cat’s fur is soft or the mud is squishy. Let him touch a variety of different textured objects, such as a soft blanket, smooth cereal box or rough sandpaper. Say the name of the object as he touches each one. Keep in mind that some of the most sensitive areas on his body are his face, palms, backbone and the soles of his feet -- incorporate these areas for a full sensory experience.
One of the most inexpensive and versatile tactile activities you can offer is found in nature. Take your child on a nature walk. Sink his feet into the sand on the beach, have an outdoor picnic in the park or just sit on the lawn. Let your child feel grass on his bare feet, grab the leaves, touch the flowers or pick up rocks. Just keep an eye on him while he explores -- you don’t want him trying to eat rocks or anything else he can choke on.
Bath Time Fun
Bath time isn't just for getting clean -- it can offer an array of sensory experiences. Splashing the water, squishing bubbles or even allowing your infant to hold the washcloth before you clean behind his ears gives him a tactile experience. Of course, this should be a completely supervised exploration, and the water should be warm, not hot -- he doesn’t need to feel his first burn from hot water.
There are many benefits to infant massage, including the tactile experience. Massage your infant's limbs with gentle massage oil, such as sweet almond or jojoba. The loving touch will call his attention to the sensation on each part of his body. The gentle pressure and movement is soothing and lets him know that he is being cared for, all while he is taking in the experience.
Food isn’t just for nourishment -- infants like to play with it, too, making it an ideal medium for tactile experiences. Mix up a batch of pudding, mashed potatoes or cooked noodles and allow those little fingers to explore. Soft whipped cream and slippery cooked gelatin can be part of the food fun, too.