Tactile Activities

  • Tactile input can be described as touch input which detects light touch, deep pressure, texture, temperature, vibration, and pain.  

    Tactile activities involve touch and the ability to feel different textures.  Touch provides us with information about the size and shape of an object.  This is an important basis for knowing how to hold and position objects in our hands.

    Play with various textures.  Children have a tendency to tolerate dry materials before wet, sticky ones.  Please do not force a child to touch something he/she is uncomfortable with.  He/She should be conditioned to it. 

    • Feely bag - Put various objects (penny, button, marble, paperclip, block, sandpaper, cotton ball, shoelace, feather) in a bag or sock.  Ask your child to reach in and take out an object without looking.  Vary the game by asking your child to take out something round, etc.  Encourage your child to use descriptive words when finding specific shapes and textures, ex: bumpy, smooth, light.
    • Tactile container - Fill a container with sand, rice, beans, birdseed, macaroni, etc. and hide objects in it.  Have your child find objects with eyes open and closed.
    • Tactile tray - Fill a tray with sand, salt, whipped or shaving cream.  Have your child draw shapes, etc. with finger or stick (held like a pencil).
    • Playdough/clay (see recipes) - Make shapes, letters, and numbers.  Use cookie cutters, rolling pin, etc.
    • Fingerpaint - Add salt, fine birdseed, or rice to give it a different texture.
    • Table top - Spread pudding or whipped cream on table.
    • Cream - With supervision, play in shaving cream (or foamy soap) on shower walls or whipped cream on inside of dishwasher.
    • Collage - Make pictures using cotton, leaves, bark, grass, yarn, etc.
    • Necklaces - Make chains with macaroni or cereal.  use licorice as the cord.  Eat for fun!

    Encourage your child to walk barefoot in the grass, sand, or dirt.  Plant seeds or flowers together.

    Play dress up.

    • Wear various costumes to get used to the feel of unfamiliar clothing.
    • Wear make up or do face painting.


     Dough/Clay are great ways to introduce your child to tactile experiences.  In addition, they help to develop fine motor strength and control.  Here are a few fun recipes to try.

    Uncooked Playdough

    Mix:  1/2 cup cold water 

             1/2 cup salt

             1 tsp. vegetable oil

             food coloring

    Add:  1 1/2 cups flour

             1 tbsp. cornstarch



    1 cup flour                          2 tbsp. oil                               

    1/2 cup salt                        1 cup water

    2 tsp. cream of tartar        food coloring

    Mix in pan.  Cook over medium heat (until dough follows spoon).  Knead dough when cool.  Store in plastic container or bag.


    Cookie Clay

    2 cups salt                          1 cup cornstarch

    2/3 cup water                     1/2 cup cold water

    Mix salt with water in saucepan.  Stir and boil.  Add cornstarch and cold water.  Heat until thick.  Roll out dough on board floured with cornstarch.  Dry and decorate ornaments.


    Silly Putty

    ~2 parts white glue (cheaper brands do not work well)

    ~1 part liquid starch

    Stir.  If mixture sticks to your fingers, add more starch.  If it won't stick to itself, add more glue.  Store in airtight container in fridge.  Silly putty is fun to cut with scissors!

    *Caution:  This may stick to clothes, hair, and furniture.  Wear a smock and play in uncarpeted areas.  If you get it on fabric, use vinegar to take it out.