Three Critical Ways Physical Touch Impacts the Development of Your Little One

Physical touch is a fundamental part of early childhood development, playing an important role in both physical and emotional growth. From a hug or a gentle hand on the shoulder to parent-child interaction, physical contact is key to nurturing healthy relationships.
Here are three ways physical touch impacts early childhood development.

Creating a Secure Bond through Physical Touch

First, physical touch helps to create a secure bond between parents and their children. When a baby is born, skin-to-skin contact helps to initiate the bonding process between parent and child. As children grow, tactile interaction—such as holding hands, cuddles, hugs, and gentle touches—continues to maintain that secure bond between parent and child. Parents use touch as a way to show love and affection, which nourishes a healthy relationship that is vital to a child’s emotional well-being and development.

Stress Reduction and Emotional Regulation

Second, physical touch seems to help reduce stress in children. Studies have found that touch helps to stimulate the production of oxytocin, the so-called “love hormone.” Oxytocin helps to decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and can lead to better self-regulation and improved social skills. In other words, physical interaction is an invaluable tool for helping children to stay relaxed and regulate their emotions.

Communication and Support via Physical Touch

Last, physical touch is an important tool for communicating to children. Parents use touch to acknowledge their children’s accomplishments and comfort them in difficult situations. Touch can also be used to support vocal commands; for example, putting a hand on a child’s shoulder and looking them in the eyes when giving a verbal instruction can help to reinforce their understanding of the message.

The Vital Role of Physical Touch in Early Childhood Development

In sum, physical touch has immense benefits for a child’s emotional and physical development. Holding hands, cuddles, hugs and other forms of physical interaction all play an important role in forming a secure bond between parent and child, reducing stress, and communicating with children. Ultimately, physical touch is an invaluable tool for helping to raise healthy and happy children.