Scéalta – The Early Childhood Ireland Blog

< Back to Blog

The Power of Touch


Tuesday 02 October 2018

Touch is powerful. For most of us, a hug or pat on the shoulder from a partner, friend, or colleague can work wonders when we feel down or upset. It won’t solve the problem or make the hurt go away, but it shows us someone is there, someone cares, and the world doesn’t seem quite so bad. It is the same for children. We all need that feeling, especially young children. Children don’t yet have the life experience to realise that the pain of a grazed knee or the feeling of distress when someone takes away the toy they’ve been playing with will pass.

However, sometimes we hear of adults who work with children being reluctant or afraid to touch the children they care for. Why is this? Is it a fear that they may be seen as less professional if they are emotionally and physically connected to children, or is it an overzealous interpretation of child protection guidance? In my 2009 MA dissertation, What’s Love Got to Do with It, I explored some of these issues. I videoed educators and together we discussed the recorded interactions. I could see that ‘children were at their most comfortable when the adults seemed happy to be with them.’ However, we hear, anecdotally, of practitioners being discouraged from hugging children or having them sit on their knee for a story or chat. We hear of educators being unwilling to assist children with toileting as there is physical contact involved. This focus on minimising physical contact ignores the emotional impact this can have on children. Children First (2017) says that lack of comfort and love can be indicators of emotional abuse. It’s important that we remember to be fully present for children; emotionally as well as physically.

A young girl hugs her father

Aistear’s principle on relationships cites the importance of love and respect. It notes, ‘Children have a fundamental need to be with other people. They learn and develop through loving and nurturing relationships with adults and other children, and the quality of these interactions impacts on their learning and development.’ Caring touch is an essential part of love.

Dr. Jools Page uses the term ‘professional love’ to encourage those working with young children to connect to children in a more emotional way. In a 2015 Nursery World article, she writes, ‘Young children are spending many hours a day in early years settings in the company of professionals, who are doing their best to provide them with suitable attachment relationships as a requirement within the EYFS [Early Years Foundation Stage]. Why then might it be considered unprofessional for them to love the children in their care?’

In her book Essential Touch, Frances M. Carlson reminds us that ‘young children spend many hours in group settings and they cannot wait until they get home at night to get the message that they are cared for and valued.’ Caring, responsive interactions are needed for all children, especially young children, throughout the day. Carlson believes that touch is ‘absolutely required for physical and cognitive development.’

Of course, some children may not like too much physical contact, and that is OK. We need to be led by the child and remember that it is about meeting their needs. Imposing touch on children is not appropriate. However, we need them to know that they matter to us, we enjoy being with them, and that cuddles are available when needed!


Máire Corbett is an Early Childhood Specialist at Early Childhood Ireland. She trained in Montessori teaching and has completed an MA in Integrated Provision for Children and Families with the University of Leicester at Pen Green.

'Visiting member settings inspires me as I see the passion and energy educators put into providing great experiences for the children in their settings. I love seeing competent children at play!'

0 comments Comments

Leave a Reply

Please Log In to comment:

Identity(5) Well-Being(10) National Awards 2019(1) Nutrition(1) worries(1) Nordic model(1) Trade Unions(1) Positivity(1) Quality(4) Creativity(7) Online Research Symposium(3) Toby Bears Camping Trip(1) Leargas(1) Croatia(1) collaboration(1) Cork(1) Pedagogical leaders(1) COVID-19(18) International Narratives(1) Awards(2) Identity and Belonging(4) peer group(1) Snakes(1) Brain(1) imotion(1) Exploring and Thinking(1) National Childcare Scheme(1) bloom app(1) continual professional development(1) AIM(2) outdoor space(3) conference(1) MECPI(1) Thank you(1) preschool settings(1) Motor neuron disease(1) Exploratory Play(1) Kindness Challenge(1) Educators(2) RTE Investigates(1) Exit interview(1) research submissions(1) Leadership for INClusion in the Early Years(1) Inspiring Practice(1) Pedagogy(2) Maths(6) Decisions(1) Covid-19 lockdown(1) Frustrations(1) Consent(1) Employee(1) Iraq(1) Yoga(1) Inclusion(3) Academics(1) supportive environments(2) General Data Protection Regulation(1) Large Doll Play(1) St. Patrick's Day(1) Growing up in Ireland(3) Minister Katherine Zappone(1) STEAM(1) Reflective Practice(1) Time(1) Adoption(1) Sweets(1) AsIAm(2) Flowers(1) Arts(1) National Annual Awards 2020(1) Sculptures(1) Anxiety(2) COVID-19 landscape(1) annual conference(1) listen(1) Irish(1) maternity health(1) Rich Documentation(1) Fantasy play(1) Line-ups(1) Ariana Pucci(1) curriculum(7) guardian(1) Plastic(1) NAEYC(1) Return to Work(1) Pre-School Services(1) Gardening(1) Skillnet(1) Thanks(1) GDPR(1) Grief(1) social science(1) Reggio Children Network(1) Support(1) Children's Rights(3) keezy(1) Design(1) staying connected(1) Snack Time(1) babies(7) role playing(1) Investment(2) early childhood(1) Confident(1) Study Trip(1) Digital(1) Relaxation(1) Trigonometry(1) Jenga(1) Rituals(1) Albert Einstein(1) Engineers Week(2) Learning Story(1) gender bias(1) relationships(18) Policy(2) code of ethics(1) Playdough(1) Wesco(1) Educator - Leader in Practice Award(1) Frosty the Snowman(1) Dolly Partons Imagination Library(1) Traffic Lights(1) Loss(1) Children's Voice(1) Dr Mary O'Kane(1) Certificate(1) Vertical grouping(1) Body Language(1) Learning through Storytelling(2) Buddy Bench(1) primary education(1) experience(1) Diversity(1) GoToMeeting app(1) European Project(1) Covid19 crisis(1) Afghanistan(1) dining experiences(1) reopening ireland(1) Unesco(1) Engineering(3) The Jelly King(1) University(1) emotional environment(2) First 5(1) journey(1) dining(1) Síolta(139) Educator Award - Leader in Practice(1) Pobal sector profile(1) Partnership with Families Innovation Award(2) Hand Hygiene(2) ERASMUS+(3) Trade union(1) nutritional learning(1) Graduate(1) early childhood ireland research(1) UN(1) Trauma-Sensitive(1) Buddies(1) democratic citizens(1) Autism(4) behavioural science(1) Graduation(1) ELC(1) Loving Relationships(2) Queues(1) National Council for Curriculum and Assessment(1) Titles(1) CCTV(1) Japan(1) community(5) under 3's(3) Primary School(3) Gratitude(1) Counting(1) MA(1) play(37) UK(1) Early Childhood Ireland(10) World book day(1) doodle den(1) Irish Early Years Research & Practice Seminar 2018(1) dublin(2) quarantine kids(1) doodle families(1) Child mental health(1) Sociodramatic play(1) QRF(1) june29(1) Reopening Childcare(1) Budget 2019(2) Winter(1) Norway(2) Scéalta Blog(106) bonds(1) science(3) Pobal(1) life long learning(1) structure(1) Mount Everest(1) Vietnam(1) DCYA(6) Rising to the Challenge(2) Universal Design Guidelines(1) Orla Kenny(1) keep in touch(1) pets(1) women in research(1) SPICE Framework(1) Touch(1) School Age Childcare(2) Children's Research Network(2) TRAP(1) man up(1) Home Corner(1) Dance(1) Self Help Skills(1) Recycling(2) Inspections(1) conversations(1) Affordability(1) Spiders(1) Scents(1) risky play(2) E.coli(1) Children(8) National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education(1) built environments(1) Reggio(1) IGL(1) Kerry(1) Syria(1) UN Sustainable Development Goals(1) Appreciation(1) NCCA(4) Mental Health(4) curiosity(3) Performing(1) Learning journals(1) Adverse Childhood Experiences(1) Exclusion(1) Participation(2) Biting(1) Change(1) Creative(1) Workplace Relations(3) Christmas Creativity(2) Love(3) Time Out(1) preschool(4) PIP(1) parents(7) Online(1) Independence(1) emotional well-being(1) Sessional service(1) Cork Institute of Technology(1) early childhood educator(2) developing motor skills(1) Summer(2) trust(4) CPD(1) Seas Suas(1) Valerie Gaynor(1) learners(1) apps for children(1) Storytelling(8) Sustainable(1) Mark Twain(1) New Appointments(1) Return to Work Training(1) Early Years Education(1) Window(1) code of professional responsibility(1) National Early Childhood Research Conference(2) Seanchaí(1) COVID-19 crisis(1) value(1) social media policy(1) Snacks(1) Irish guidelines(1) Games(2) Equality & Inclusion Guidelines Training(1) Qualifications(1) multi-generational community(1) Early Childhood Ireland’s National Early Childhood Research Conference 2019(1) RIE philosphy(1) World Health Organisation(1) Routines(2) early year’s classrooms(1) EM Standing(1) Role play(1) Leaders in Practice(1) mushrooms(1) Liz Kerrins(1) Interests(1) presentation skills(1) Workplace well-being(1) Engagement(1) Kindness(1) Research Seminar(1) upskilling(1) Montessori & Early Childhood Professionals Ireland(1) Confidence(1) Running(1) outdoors(4) Sustainability(3) First 5 strategy(1) Penguins(1) Mantra(1) Culture(2) child safeguarding(1) play pods(2) Stress(2) Elders(1) blog(58) Wrapping paper(1) play pod(1) aistear blog(4) CIT(1) environments(2) Arlene Forster(1) inspiring interactions(1) racism(1) democracy(1) Equality(1) Staff Motivation(1) Aistear(132) Deirdre Rogers(1) Communicating(1) worldbookday(1) Map(1) ECEC Setting(2) Performance Management(1) Feeding(1) Europe(1) Super Shed Stories(2) Art(6) Early Learning and Care(2) Dr. Emer Ring(1) Kilkenny(1) Socioemotional development(1) Department of Children and Youth Affairs(2) linc(1) Meet the Members(1) Arithmetic(1) planning(1) Mud kitchens(1) Capable(1) First 5 transitions for children award(1) coronavirus(1) Smiles(1) Care-giving routines(1) Mindfulness(3) National Awards 2018(2) quarantine(2) Early Years(1) christmas(9) emotions(2) Social Skills(1) Together Old and Young Programme(1) Book Club(2) Research and Professional Learning(1) Care routines(1) Valentine's Day(3) Interactions(3) ECEC(4) Magic(1) Pen green(1) Fabric(1) Nuturing interactions(1) Intention(1) Annual Conference 2017(2) Effect of Lockdown(1) Masterclass(2) UNICEF report(1) homeschool(1) EECERA 2016(1) Iceland(2) Self-regulation(1) educarer(1) Sport(1) Cognitive development(1) science week(2) Exercise(1) COVID-19 Reopening(2) Treasure Chest(1) pablo(1) online training(1) COVID(3) gender stereotype(1) documentation(4) Family(1) The Lullaby Book(1) Upcycling(1) Awards 2018(3) creche(1) routine(2) Behaviour(3) Story(2) lockdown(1) Competent(1) Builders(1) Book Review(1) Jillian van Turnhout(1) Recycle(1) Childhood Development Initiative(1) Giraffe(2) Irish Childhood Bereavement Network(1) Sleep(1) educating(1) Settling in(4) Names(1) Pretend Play(1) child-centred approach(1) Looking Back(1) Annual Conference 2019(1) early years learning(1) responsive relationships(1) Communications(1) risk(2) Human Resources(1) Maynooth University(2) Limerick(1) Magda Gerber(1) an post(1) healthy eating policies(1) Light table(1) Síolta QAP(1) Twitter(1) Budget 2018(1) refugees(1) Inspirational(2) Policy and Implementation Panel(1) Facebook(1) Aldo Fortunati(4) Mayo(1) Visual Impairment(1) Empathy(1) EECERA(1) grandchild(1) Administrative Burden(1) budget(1) Scéalta Book Review(1) Craft(1) Children and families(2) Maria Montessori(1) Educator of the Year Award(3) Supernanny(1) meals(3) HR(1) Visitors(1) Wendy Lee(4) Whole Group(1) Trick or treat(1) Malaguzzi(1) Growing up Outdoors(2) Bereavement(2) San Miniato(4) Our Little Seed(1) Environment(2) ReCreate(2) mental health problems(1) SAC(1) INTO(1) Meal time(1) Access and Inclusion Model(2) Potential(1) Leprechauns(1) Magnavacchi(1) Mo Scéal(1) early years settings(1) The Play and Learning in the Early Years(1) DES Inspection(1) Early Years Educators(3) Early Childhood Ireland National Awards(2) Kids Own(1) Fire Safety(1) Margy Whalley(1) Party(1) Montessori(3) outdoor play(7) Laugh(1) timekeeping skills(1) Halloween(2) Universal Design(2) scientific and artistic processes(1) Early Childhood Education(1) play therapy(1) TOY Programme(1) Favouritism(1) Children's Book Club(1) Prexit(1) Early Childhood Care and Education(2) Drawing(2) Child Care(1) Maths Week(1) awards 2020(1) Italy(1) children’s learning(1) Shoes(1) Maths Week Ireland(1) Maternity Leave(1) annual awards(1) Department of Education and Skills(1) books(5) LINC Award for Leadership in Inclusion(2) Learning Journal(2) purpose(1) Impact(1) art of the relationship(1) natural environment(2) Thinking(1) youdoodle(1) learning hub(2) Playschool(1) Nonverbal(1) Document Learning(1) STEM(3) Patterns(1) family time(1) phone apps(1) Challenges(1) Proceedings Journal(1) ECCE(7) National Pyjama Day(1) education(2) Anthony Semann(1) Youtube Series(1) Santa(2) National Holiday(1) Treasure(1) early years research(3) Training(3) stories(3) dolly parton library(1) toddlers(3) ears(1) Painting(1) Health(2) story time(2) National Bereaved Children's Awareness Week(1) friendships(1) National Research Conference 2019(1) respect(5) listening(1) childcare services(1) TUSLA(1) partnership with families(1) Advocacy(1) Fee Play(1) Budget 2020(1) transitions(10) preschools(1) Aistear Siolta Practice Guide(1) Mealtimes(1) College(1) Horizon 2020(1) Vivian Gussin Paley(1) Special Needs Assistants(1) dogs(1) Easter(1) overhear(1) research(8) play stories(2) eating(1) Mixed age groups(3) Eritrea(1) Shapes(2) United Nations(1) Emergent Curriculum(1) Decision Making(1) Regulation 23(1) development(9) playleader(1) learning bias(1) Tuscan Approach(2) Building Resilience(1) Síolta Quality Assurance programme(1) children development(1) Self-Esteem(1) Music(3) Early Learning and Care Centres(1) Plants(1) Reading Time(2) Lego(2) reading(6) Childhood(2) Inter-generational learning(2) social media(2) Belonging(3) Minister for Children and Youth Affairs(1) Photographs(1) outdoor environment(1) UNCRC(2) Engineering Ireland(1) Learning Story Awards(2) learning(19) show and tell(1) Glitter(2) Covid pandemic(3) Sequins(1) Covid response(2) Breathing(2) Little Buddies(1) Teamwork(1) Siolta blog(8) Awards Night(1) Laughter(1) UD(1) Funding(1) movement behaviours(1) Learning Stories Award(3) Infection Control(1) Exploring(1) Research Conference 2019(1) Blocks(1) Community involvement(1) feisty(1) Death(2) ECIAwards20(1) Mathematicians(1) Inter-generational(2) Celebrations(4) Leadership(1) Xbox(1) Interaction(1) Oireachtas(1) communication(4) Ceremony(1) Professionalisation(5) Learning Stories(9) Providing Leadership to the First 5(1) Wilenski(1) education system(1) Inspired Practice Awards(1) child led(1) European Early Childhood Education Research Association(2) Childcare(3) Celebrate(1) Event Guide(1) iOS(1) Women(1) Reggio Emilia(2) Digital Devices(1) Through the looking glass(1) Family wall(1) UK Government(1) Childcare Barometer 2018(1) Looking Forward(1) Small World Play(1) Academic Skills(1) Technology(3) Imagination(3) Obesity(1) Workforce(1) baby room(1) Wonder(1) reopening(1) child-centric(1) early life(1) risk assessment(1) Maynooth(1) Traditions(2) Aistear Siolta in Action(1) partnership(1) Weather(1) Degree(1) Infectious diseases(1) Opportunities(1) interacting(2) Awards 2019(1) scéalta(59) memories(1) Inspired Practice Award(6) Your place(1) animals(2) ICBN(1) food(1)


Site maintained and developed by Cloud Nine