Importance of Touch in Child Development
As a baby grows, so does their need for human interaction and touch. Attachment is based on communication. Parent child connections are formed through sensorial contact and tactile stimulation is essential to help children reinforce secure attachments. This is why the importance of touch in child development is our main topic in this blog. In fact, brain and neurological development depend on tactile stimulation. Research shows that deprivation of sensory stimulation, especially touch, adversely affects the healthy development of the child.
Share Skin to Skin Contact
It is important that mom and baby share the first hour of birth together with skin to skin contact. During this time mom and baby can connect by talking, touching, soothing, singing, nursing, and even eye contact if the baby’s eyes are open. During this attachment bonding period, a mother and baby’s heartbeats will synchronize. It is a beautiful time where life almost stands still as the baby is first welcomed into the world. I believe it’s important that the second hour of the baby’s life should be spent in contact with the father. This ensures that the baby also gets a head start in attaching to both parents. The first few days of a baby’s life can be somewhat a blur to a new parent. However, these days are vital when it comes to parent child attachment.
The more you physically touch and verbally interact with your baby, the more securely attached your baby will feel, and the more your baby will thrive.
While baby grows, parent and infant interactions and sensory activities shape the experience of the child. Did you know that the surface area of the skin has a huge number of sensory receptors? The infant quickly learns a mother’s smell, taste, touch, and sound of her voice and continues to be soothed through these primary senses. Infants prefer the sight and sound of their mother, always. They are even able to smell her breast milk if they are in the same room. Sometimes even from a different room in the same house.
Touch to Calm Baby
When an infant gets fussy, scared, or anxious, touching a baby will lower their heart rate, calming them so that they can be content longer and sleep better. In addition to enhancing attachment, tactile stimulation also enhances development of the nervous system, reduces the stress hormone called cortisol, and releases the anti-stress hormone called oxytocin. Human touch also helps alleviate colic and gastrointestinal problems, asthma symptoms, increases circulation, and improves the immune system.
The Power of Play
Being a play therapist, I strongly believe in the power of play. I have seen some miraculous changes in behavior with children, adolescents, and adults of all ages through play. Play promotes sensory development and will enhance a secure parent child attachment. Parents can play with their child even when he or she is in the womb. Gentle touch, song, reading, rubbing a growing belly can all be ways for play to take place before the baby is born.
Once the baby is born, play during infancy is primarily imitative and interactive. Babies will mimic your voice and facial expressions. And attachment relationships are used for communication. Infants actively seek sensory stimulation. Babies love to be held, love to receive baths and massages, and love to engage in any type of human interaction possible. Especially in neurosensory play with their parents in touching, tasting, and seeing them and the new world around them. This is why parent child interactions influence brain development through physical touch, social interaction, and sensory stimuli.
So each day ask yourself this question – what have I done to emotionally and physically attach and play with my baby today? Am I putting enough emphasis on the importance of touch in child development?
Dr. Kim is a wife and a mom of a toddler and a baby. After years of experience in television and radio, Dr. Kim became the owner/founder of her own brand and blog called The Parentologist. The Parentologist w/ Dr. Kim is a resource for moms and moms-to-be about everything parenting with a therapeutic twist. She is a doctorate in psychology, a licensed marriage and family therapist, a registered play therapist specializing in children 0-10 years old, a university professor, a public speaker, and has a private practice.
Regularly, she speaks at conferences and events, facilitates weekly prenatal/postpartum mom support groups, and offers monthly parenting workshops and parenting consultations nationwide on everything from prenatal/postpartum care to sleep training, temper tantrums, emotional self regulation, behavior issues, potty training, and more! Please visit her blog/website at http://theparentologist.com and on social media @theparentologist! To collaborate or to schedule a parenting consultation, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.