Sensory Systems Explained: What is Tactile?

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Have you ever stopped to think about how amazing our sense of touch is? It’s pretty incredible how we can feel different textures, temperatures, and pressures with our fingertips, isn’t it? Well, that’s all thanks to our tactile sensory system! 

For kids, this system plays an especially important role in their development and ability to interact with the world around them.

Did you know that we have EIGHT sensory systems?! Most people only know the top five. This blog post is part of a series in which we delve into all eight sensory systems.

In addition to the tactile system we have seven other sensory systems. They are:

So, let’s dive into what the tactile sensory system is all about and why it’s so crucial for kids.

What is the Tactile Sensory System?

The tactile sensory system, also known as the sense of touch, is a complex system in the human body that allows us to perceive different textures, temperatures, pressures, and vibrations through our skin. It’s one of the five main senses, along with sight, hearing, taste, and smell, and it plays a critical role in our everyday experiences and interactions with the world. The tactile sensory system is responsible for a variety of functions, including discriminating between different textures, detecting potentially harmful stimuli, and providing a sense of body awareness and spatial orientation.

The Importance of the Tactile Sensory System for Kids

The tactile sensory system is important for kids, as it plays a crucial role in their development and ability to interact with their environment. 

Through touch, children can learn about different textures, shapes, and sizes, which can help them develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. 

The tactile sensory system also helps children to become more aware of their own bodies, which can improve their ability to balance and move in space.

Additionally, touch can be a comforting and calming sensation for kids, which can help to regulate their emotions and reduce anxiety. 

Overall, the tactile sensory system is essential for kids’ development and well-being.

Signs of Tactile Sensory Issues

There are several signs that a child may be experiencing tactile sensory system issues, including:

Over-sensitivity to touch: The child may be easily overwhelmed or distressed by certain textures, such as clothing tags or seams, or may be resistant to being touched or hugged.

Under-sensitivity to touch: The child may have a high tolerance for pain or may not be aware of their own strength when touching or handling objects.

Seeking out touch: The child may seek out intense or repetitive sensations, such as constantly touching objects or chewing on non-food items.

Avoiding touch: The child may avoid certain textures, activities, or social interactions that involve physical contact, which can impact their ability to participate in everyday activities.

Difficulty with fine motor skills: The child may struggle with tasks that require fine motor skills, such as holding a pencil or using utensils, due to a lack of sensitivity or awareness in their hands.

It’s important to note that these signs can vary depending on the individual child and their specific sensory processing issues. If you notice any of these signs in your child, it may be helpful to speak with a healthcare professional who can provide further assessment and support.

Tactile Sensory Strategies for Kids

There are several tactile sensory strategies that can be helpful for kids who are experiencing sensory processing issues related to touch. These strategies include:

Sensory play: Engaging in sensory play activities, such as playing with sensory bins, clay, or sand, can help children explore different textures in a fun and safe way.

Weighted blankets: Using a weighted blanket during rest or sleep can provide a calming sensation and promote relaxation.

Hand fidgets: Providing a small object or fidget toy for the child to hold and manipulate can help them regulate their sensory input and improve focus.

Tactile toys: Toys with interesting textures, such as squishy balls or fidget cubes, can provide a range of tactile sensations for children to explore.

Deep pressure: Applying deep pressure to the child’s body, such as through a bear hug or a firm massage, can provide calming and regulating input.

Tactile cues: Using tactile cues, such as tapping the child’s shoulder to get their attention or providing a gentle touch to guide them through a task, can be helpful for children who struggle with auditory or visual processing.

Handwriting tools: Using special handwriting tools, such as pencil grips or textured writing paper, can provide tactile feedback and improve handwriting skills.

Sensory tunnels: Sensory tunnels, made of soft or textured materials, can provide a safe and enclosed space for children to explore different textures.

Playdough: Playdough can be a fun and versatile sensory tool, allowing children to mold and shape different textures while also providing tactile feedback. You can even add play dough mats for additional fun!

Velcro: Using velcro strips or pads can provide satisfying tactile input for children who seek a stronger sensation.

There are so many different tactile strategies that can be used for kids! Have a favorite that we didn’t mention? Share it in the comments for others!

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