We Get It - Children who Touch Everything

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


My husband and I were looking through our photo albums, and we noticed that Miss E was touching or holding something in almost every single picture.  Since she has been a baby, she has explored the world and been soothed by her sense of touch.  As a newborn, she was soothed by nursing, and touching my ears still calms her at 4 1/2 years old. She delights in getting her hands dirty when playing in mud or being covered in paint after an art project.

touching ears

I think it's normal for young children to want to touch everything, but it can be a behavior that drives me nuts too.  Shopping mall trips usually cause me to feel like pulling out my hair.  She pulls clothes off hangers, and I feel badly that I can't pick up the mess because I am trying to keep up with her next move.  She reaches for breakable items, and I envision her getting cut with broken glass.  She rolls around on the carpeting probably covering herself in germs from thousands of dirty shoes.

Adjusting my expectations has helped make it easier to accept her need to touch (almost) everything.

messy play

Changed Expectations    

  • Our home isn't going to be a decorator's showcase.  Anything that I don't want her touching needs to be out of reach or put away.  I want to encourage her curiosity and sense of play at home, and the items at her level are for her to touch.  When she was younger, childproof doorknob covers and baby gates kept her out of rooms where we didn't want her playing.
  • Before our daughter was born, I was against cosleeping.  I soon discovered she could not fall asleep without touching me.  When she was ready at almost four years old, we taught her to fall asleep on her own.  
  • Shopping is going to be a challenge.  When she was younger, she needed to be in a shopping cart or stroller.  Eating something crunchy or sweet helps make grocery trips more pleasant.  We avoid shopping with her, but it's not always possible. 
  • Mealtimes are messy.  She is a picky eater, but I have noticed when she is allowed to pick up her food with her hands, she is more likely to eat it.  Her face is covered in more food than her peers, and I wonder if feeling the food on her face makes her more comfortable eating it.  Thankfully, she gets less messy as she gets older, but she is still pretty messy at 4 1/2 years old.  At least, she helps clean up the mess, now.
  • Keep to a sleep schedule.  When she is sleep deprived or it's close to bedtime, it is much harder for her to follow directions about not touching.  At times, she will just start touching everything if she is too tired.  We start winding down our day an hour before bedtime with a bath, walk, board games, or easy craft.  
  • Constant reminding of no touching rules.  I feel like a broken record a lot, but I try not to lose patience when I need to redirect her behavior.  She has a habit of touching the walls, and it irriates me because I don't want dirty walls.  Despite the irritation, I remind her calmly (most of the time).  
  • Be aware of temperature.  She is more likely to sleep through the night at a constant warm temperature.  We keep our thermostat at 80 degrees F in the summer, and in the winter, she has warm pajamas and blankets.  Blankets and loose coverings aren't advised for babies, so dress a baby with warm pajamas or sleepsack.  Some children may like it cooler, though.  
Miss E responds well to high sensory activities.  Activities where she can immerse her hands or whole body in a material and explore it with her hands, objects, or toys. When she has had her need to touch met through play she is less likely to touch things she shouldn't.

touching dirt

Activities for Kids who Like to Touch Everything

  • Sand Play - We just built a sandbox, but before that we played in the sand at neighborhood playgrounds.
  • Cloud Dough - This is moldable sand you can make at home with a delightful texture.  
  • Messy Play - Be more open to your child getting messy with their play.  Miss E loves playing with mud.  
  • Explore literacy through sensory story boxes.  
  • Outdoor Play - She has always been calmer when outdoors, so I make it a priority to get outside everyday.  
  • Water Play - Baths, fountain parks, swimming are all fun activities for my daughter.  
  • Petting Animals - Miss E adores animals, especially cats and dogs.  Petting our cat is relaxing, and she loves petting her Grammy and Frampa's dogs, too. 
  • Cooking - When she was a toddler, I handed her scraps of vegetables and food to play with while I cooked.  As I bake, I give her scoops of ingredients to stir, pour, and mix in her own bowls.  She especially loves baking cookies.  
  • Sensory play is wonderful for babies and toddlers too.  Growing a Jeweled Rose  shares baby and toddler sensory play ideas.  
  • Creative with Kids is an incredible resource for more sensory play activities.  
While it can be difficult to manage a child who has a high need to touch everything, I have found this behavior can be beneficial to my daughter.  I recognize her need to touch things shows she is curious, and she uses her hands and whole body to make observations and learn about objects.  I noticed that her fine motor skills developed earlier than her peers because she is building hand and finger muscle strength by manipulating objects she is touching with her fingers.  

Touching Rocks as Baby

I am not definitely not a perfect parent, and her constant need to touch can overwhelm me, at times. If I keep realistic expectations of my daughter based on her age and personality along with giving her lots of opportunity to explore and play through her sense of touch, we are more likely to have more smiles than tears.  


Do you have a child who likes to touch everything?  What activities does your child, who likes to touch everything, like to do?  Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section below. 

Thank you for joining this week's We Get It: Support for Difficult Childhood Behavior.  Next week, Kristin from Sense of Wonder will be sharing her reflections and strategies for parenting her determined teenage daughter.  On her blog, she has written about loving principles of childcare for babies and toddlers.  Please come back next week for more parental support for difficult childhood behavior.

This post is linked up to Tuesday Tots and the Weekly Kids Co-Op.


39 comments:

Growing a Jeweled Rose said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

This is such an informative post! So many great ideas to help foster this behavior rather than hinder it. I am very excited for this series! Also, thanks or the linky love <3

Rebekah said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

@Growing a Jeweled Rose I couldn't talk about sensory play with babies and not include you, Crystal. =) I wish your site was around when Miss E was a baby.

MaryAnne said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I love that photo of her touching the tree bark as a baby!

My kids do not like to touch everything (sometimes they would benefit from being a bit more curious...), but I have noticed that they also sleep better when the house is warmer, and their own issues show up less when we stick to a schedule and make sure they get plenty of sleep.

Looking forward to this series!

Cerys @ Rainy Day Mum said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

What a great post - J was and still is a touchy toddler - he falls asleep touching my arm - it took us a while to get it from pinching my arm to stroking. He loves playing with things that he can manipulate like playdough, clay, sand, mud. But wants his hands cleaned straight.

We have finally improved with T's sleeping (13 months of no sleep and in the last week it's improved a bit) - she has been cold, even with thermal pj's on, duvet and blanket she has been cold and waking up regularly and not wanting to go back into her bed - she's back in a sleep sack, with thermal pj's and a vest on and then under a blanket or quilt in bed as well - and she's so snuggly you can see her face relaxed in sleep and she hugs the blanket/quilt to her.

Jennifer said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Aww! My Juliet is 4 1/2 and is just the same! She has always petted me or twiddled my ears when she is tired while sucking her two middle fingers.

Kim @ Little Stories said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Your understanding and care for your daughter is incredibly touching. I will be sharing your story because so many families will be inspired.

PlayDrMom said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Terrific post on finding great ways to work with your child's sensory needs!!!
My son, now 6, has always been an "ear touch-er" too!!! He also has a need for lots of sensory stimulation. Thanks for sharing and starting up this series!!!

Meg said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I'm a little teary reading this. I've never read my son's behavior described in such a loving way.
He needs to touch everything.
When he was younger he wanted to touch skin...he would put his head up my shirt as a 3 and 4 year old-long after I'd finished nursing. He continues to need to touch things, and it really bothers a lot of people. I've had a lot of conversations with people eager to put a label on this behavior. Thank you for writing about it in such a positive and understanding way.

Rebekah said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

@Meg Meg, you have made me teary eyed too. I am so happy to hear that this post has helped you. Your sweet son needing his mother's touch is so normal. Big hugs to you, loving Momma.

Rebekah said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

@PlayDrMom Another ear touch-er! People often wonder how it started. I suppose bc it's a little unusual. I can't honestly remember when she started. I know she was a young baby.

Rebekah said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

@Kim @ Little Stories Thank you for your sweet comment and sharing this with your readers.

Rebekah said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

@Jennifer So sweet. I know there will come a time when I miss the ear touching.

Rebekah said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

@Cerys @ Rainy Day Mum Oh goodness, I can so relate to the pinching. When she was around a year, the ear touching became painful bc she would pull and pinch aggressively. Each time she did it, I would move her hand away. Eventually, she learned to do it without hurting me. Oh, it must be so much harder to keep them warm in colder climates. It's warm here most of the time, but we have some cold winter nights. Last year, we she slept in a sleeping bag on her bed to keep her warm bc it was a cold winter.

Rebekah said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

@MaryAnne I just love that photo too! I have grown so used to her need to touch everything that I sometimes forget there are kids who don't behave similarly. ;)

Ali said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I love your post. My eldest daughter is similar, she takes a bag filled with toys/trinkets with her everywhere... this keeps her little fingers busy. She adores messy play and throws herself into it... this has had an advantage by showing my little one that messy play is fun and not scary. My youngest can't help getting involved when she watches her sister truly loving messy and sensory play.

rachelle | tinkerlab said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

What an informative post, Rebekah! You've shared so many good ideas for parents who have children like miss E. My youngest daughter (19 mos) likes to feel my tummy when she needs soothing -- so maybe the ear isn't so bad! I think she may be similar to your daughter and I'm taking some notes!!

Natalie @ OliveJuiceMama said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Oh my gosh, I'm pretty sure you just wrote a post about my daughter (23 months)! Everything you describe is exactly what we go through every day. I love how you took this very frustrating issue and put a completely positive spin on it. My daughter loves to play with fabric (blankets, washcloths, clothes, towels) and carpet (rugs, carpet samples) so I try to keep those things readily available for her. I also cosleep with her and she insists on being snuggle up next to me. If I try and push her away a little so I can have some room, it's like we're both wearing magnets and within seconds she attached to me again. :)

tricia said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Super tips! My kids love to touch and be touched and it thrills me as their mom- I could see how it could be overwhelming to never be able to break away, though! This is so informative!

Anngelique Felix said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

What a good post Rebekah! This article is indeed a good resource for parents or etachers in similar situations. Looking forward to more in this series, very good practical advices ina redable language for us parents alwyas being busy....

Love, Angelique

Jill @ A Mom With A Lesson Plan said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Just lovely! It sounds like you little one is a combo of my two! Mine are just a little older and some of those traits changed quickly over the last few months. Little M (turned 5 in Feb.)can walk away from the table with only a hand wash. We used to clean her from head to toe. She does touch everything in stores, and it used to drive me crazy. I've been patient with her and an amazing thing happened. My mom took her thrift store shopping (because she loves it)and she said she touched every little thing. She was so gentle with everything and never asked to take one thing home. I think she can handle little glass items because of all the practice she's had.

Great article! I can't wait to read the next one.

JDaniel4's Mom said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

You came with great work arounds. I love the ways you built learning around her need to touch things.

Rebekah said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

@rachelle | tinkerlab Oh goodness, does she show your tummy to others. =)

Rebekah said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

@Natalie @ OliveJuiceMama Natalie, yes there must be some magnetism going on at night. I end up sleeping at the edge of the bed a lot. Great ideas for sensory toys for babies and toddlers.

Rebekah said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

@tricia Thank you, Tricia. I got to the point of being touched out when she was a baby since it was 24/7. Now, she isn't as cuddly as a preschooler so it's such a treat to have an affectionate child.

Rebekah said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

@Anngelique Felix Thank you, Angelique.

Rebekah said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

@Jill @ A Mom With A Lesson Plan A thrift store is a great place to test the waters with a little shopping freedom. If something does break, it won't break the bank. =) Great idea!

Rebekah said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

@JDaniel4's Mom Yes, I believe in parenting the child you have not the child you wish you had, so I try to create an environment that supports her natural tendency, but of course, with loving limits too.

Ness @ One Perfect Day said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Rebekah I'm so excited about this series and this post was lovely. It was wonderful reading how you adjusted your expectations and welcomed and accommdated your daughter's needs. That's what it's all about isn't it? Accepting your child for who they are and providing them with what they need to flourish. My son co-sleeps as well (he's almost 4). I never expected it to last this long. I'm not stressed by it or in any real rush to change it, but I do wonder sometimes how long it will be before he is happy to be on his own. You've reminded me that this is just what he needs at this point in his life and he will grow to sleep independently in his own time. Thank you.:)

Rebeca @ The Average Parent said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

My son is a toucher as well. He loves to rub my arm and sometimes my back if we're snuggling in bed...hey, who am I to argue with that one?

He actually has sensory processing disorder, and I have had such a difficult time getting people to understand...especially when he's rolling around on the floor. I found the book The Out of Sync Child to be very informative and it (along with The Out of Sync Child Has Fun) is FULL of great ideas for giving him the sensory input he craves. I also really like the blog Play At Home Mom.

We have a sandbox as well, and like to play with putty and play doh a lot. Home-made slime is also a favorite. We keep a rubbermaid bin full of beans under his bed...and I was surprised to find how therapeutic it is for even me to play with...it's just so relaxing :)

andie jaye said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

amazing post full of great suggestions. bear is touchy depending on where we are... as is the nature of a child.. he touches when we don't want him to and stands back when we want him to explore :)

oh! and i wonder if the ear-touching thing is a breastfeeding-baby thing. Bear rubs my earlobes when he gets tired or needs to calm down. strange...

Cerys @ Rainy Day Mum said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Just to let you know that I love this post so much I'm sharing it as my favourite post from last weeks Tuesday Tots on this weeks link up. Thank you and I look forward to the rest of the series.

Alissa @ Creative with Kids said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I agree with Cerys- I love this post and am so excited about this series. I shared this on my Fantastic Sensory Ideas Pinterest Board, thanks for writing such an informative post, and thanks for including me!

MommyLabs said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Rebakah,
I'd read this before when you published but I'd meant to read again and go through each and every thought all over again. I must say it's a very very thougtful and informative article, and so genuine and honest.
I was touched by her need to sleep with you - feeling your touch. It's so natural for a kid. They have to feel the warmth, bond and security of being close to mamma especially at night...
Going to share it on my facebook page and on twitter. Sorry I took time to do this due to my roller coaster days since past one month...!

Scribble Doodle and Draw said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

What a beautiful post! It really shows that you truly know your daughter and love her for who she is!

Burnett's said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Rebekah,
What a fun post to read. I have an 8 month old that loves to touch. When holding him he loves to squeeze my collar bone because it sticks out. LOL When he is sleepy he goes for my lips and squeezes. I have to keep his nails trimmed, if not, he takes skin with him. It is so nice to read positive things about our little bundles of joy when we're surrounded by negative judgments! Thanks again for your post.

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

My goodness you just described ME. Even the wall thing! Touching gives me a greater sense of connectivity and understanding. As she gets older you can also try giving her items she can touch, like a purse or toy, while you are somewhere full of items she can't touch, like shopping or a museum.

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

My granddaughter has to hold my hand and rub my finger to fall asleep most of her life. She is 26 months now and it is just starting to be that every blue moon this doesn't happen. She always takes her naps in bed with me the 2 days a weeks that I have her. She also sleeps with her parents at night.
Nice to know that all this is ok

cherishwords said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I'm so glad I found you, Rebekah. My daughter is 3.5 and has special needs. She pinches me when we're snuggling and it drives me crazy. We're working on being gentle and stroking instead of pinching, but it's taking some time, as everything does with our little one. She also loves to touch things and still puts pretty much everything in her mouth.

We've been co-sleeping part-time for the last two years after half a year of no problems, and then a year of constant sleep problems. Until recently I've been beating myself up about it regularly, but it seems to be the only way to get her back to sleep. Then when she wakes in the night, she can just feel for my hand and go right back to sleep instead of getting everyone up. So I'm making my peace with it, and we're starting to be able to get her to sleep in her own bed at the beginning of the night, which is progress.

Anyhow, it was just so nice to hear about other kids who have similar needs in terms of sleeping at the same age, but who don't necessarily have developmental delays or other "disorders". As I get wiser as a parent, I'm learning to accept things the way they are and work with my daughter instead of feeling like I'm always struggling against her. I'm also learning to give myself grace in difficult situations, and it's so much nicer to be me now. :-)

mudpiemama said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Sharing this today on the Positive Parenting Connection community page! The post is full of great ideas - thank you!! Ariadne

Post a Comment