Ever heard yourself yelling, “Don’t TOUCH that!”? If you’re a parent of a child of any age, chances are these words have been uttered on more than one occasion. It’s funny how kids are wired to touch everything they see. They spend a good amount of time from a very young age exploring their world through touch.
Our fingers are equipped with thousands of little nerve endings, receptors that send signals to our brain, that convey information about what we are touching. The temperature, the texture, the softness or hardness, the nature of the material - is it natural or man-made? Is it wet or dry? Is it rough or unpleasant, or gooey and sticky?
The way in which kids learn about the world around them by touching and manipulating objects and materials is called kinaesthetic learning. This type of learning acknowledges that children learn best when they can try and explore with their own two hands, rather than just by hearing or seeing different concepts. Learned skills are reinforced through the sense of touch.
It’s important that children are given the opportunity to touch and feel while they learn. Offering them a range of objects and materials during play can help them to develop good sensory discrimination skills, improve fine motor skills, and stimulate learning and creativity.
We are surrounded by so much plastic, that it can be easy to become desensitised - to games, toys and other resources that look, smell and feel the same. This is why wooden toys are so fantastic. They each feel and look different. The wood grain can be stained in different ways, and the textures will vary dramatically. Wood toys are nice to feel and are often much more durable than other types of toys. Eco friendly toys are especially great for the environment too!
When selecting toys for your child, it’s important to consider quality. Check that you’re purchasing from a reputable supplier who abides by legal requirements in place in Australia for toy safety.
Buy toys that spark creativity and imaginative play. This does not necessarily mean that toys should be overly complicated, and they don’t need all the ‘bells and whistles’. Construction Play Sets and stacker sets for younger kids are particularly great for this reason.
So next time you’re tempted to yell, “Don’t touch!”, think about keeping your little ones hands busy instead with a great wooden toy!
Author: Nicole Grant
Nicole is an Occupational Therapist and the Director of Gateway Therapies in Carina, Brisbane. Gateway Therapies provides allied health therapy services for all ages, but specialise in working with children on the autism spectrum. Nicole is a mum of two girls and is passionate about working with families.