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:

movement behaviours(1) environments(1) interacting(2) imotion(1) Trade Unions(1) UN(1) EM Standing(1) Teamwork(1) First 5(1) Bereavement(2) AIM(2) Toby Bears Camping Trip(1) Prexit(1) Awards 2018(3) Masterclass(2) baby room(1) Wilenski(1) Blocks(1) linc(1) Educators(2) HR(1) Thinking(1) Arithmetic(1) man up(1) Certificate(1) Impact(1) Research and Professional Learning(1) Learning Story Awards(2) CIT(1) conference(1) Sequins(1) Mealtimes(1) Engineering(3) Minister for Children and Youth Affairs(1) Vertical grouping(1) apps for children(1) Photographs(1) Social Skills(1) Mo Scéal(1) NAEYC(1) Learning Story(1) Pre-School Services(1) The Play and Learning in the Early Years(1) Twitter(1) Degree(1) reading(5) Family(1) Margy Whalley(1) story time(2) Vivian Gussin Paley(1) Minister Katherine Zappone(1) Interests(1) Time(1) National Early Childhood Research Conference(1) Shapes(1) Ceremony(1) Facebook(1) Map(1) Giraffe(2) Exercise(1) refugees(1) code of professional responsibility(1) E.coli(1) INTO(1) aistear blog(3) Malaguzzi(1) christmas(9) Easter(1) Positivity(1) Children's Rights(3) Inspired Practice Awards(1) feisty(1) eating(1) Visitors(1) Investment(2) Funding(1) early childhood educator(2) Belonging(3) First 5 transitions for children award(1) learning bias(1) Diversity(1) Gardening(1) mushrooms(1) UNCRC(2) ReCreate(2) animals(2) Montessori & Early Childhood Professionals Ireland(1) Playschool(1) curriculum(5) Thank you(1) Brain(1) role playing(1) Dr. Emer Ring(1) Maternity Leave(1) PIP(1) Dance(1) Well-Being(9) Whole Group(1) Workplace well-being(1) Aistear Siolta in Action(1) Art(6) Pen green(1) annual conference(1) early years learning(1) Socioemotional development(1) Creative(1) Penguins(1) experience(1) Appreciation(1) routine(2) Reggio Children Network(1) Mantra(1) NCCA(3) iOS(1) Arts(1) Learning Stories Award(3) Educator Award - Leader in Practice(1) ECEC Setting(2) Arlene Forster(1) Early Years Educators(3) Policy(2) Elders(1) Aistear(122) Exploring(1) play(34) play pods(1) Fee Play(1) Self-Esteem(1) Leaders in Practice(1) Trigonometry(1) Spiders(1) Educator - Leader in Practice Award(1) Learning Journal(2) Exclusion(1) Settling in(4) Montessori(3) Stress(2) Gratitude(1) CCTV(1) Magic(1) Little Buddies(1) UN Sustainable Development Goals(1) Snack Time(1) Early Childhood Ireland National Awards(2) Workplace Relations(3) june29(1) Sculptures(1) Infection Control(1) Light table(1) MA(1) SPICE Framework(1) play stories(2) Academic Skills(1) Loss(1) Mud kitchens(1) Cognitive development(1) blog(35) planning(1) CPD(1) risk assessment(1) Sweets(1) Childcare Barometer 2018(1) Interaction(1) Magda Gerber(1) research(6) Budget 2019(2) Maria Montessori(1) Winter(1) Performance Management(1) transitions(10) Valerie Gaynor(1) development(8) Plants(1) Leadership(1) art of the relationship(1) Drawing(2) Mental Health(3) Our Little Seed(1) Inspired Practice Award(5) friendships(1) preschool(4) risk(2) Fantasy play(1) Intention(1) Motor neuron disease(1) Workforce(1) Vietnam(1) respect(5) outdoor space(3) Exit interview(1) Shoes(1) Party(1) Decisions(1) structure(1) Identity and Belonging(4) Summer(1) Traffic Lights(1) Learning Stories(9) Quality(4) Sustainable(1) Relaxation(1) Mixed age groups(2) Games(1) healthy eating policies(1) Glitter(2) Death(2) Academics(1) memories(1) Identity(5) Albert Einstein(1) purpose(1) social media(1) Celebrations(4) Equality & Inclusion Guidelines Training(1) science(3) National Council for Curriculum and Assessment(1) Traditions(2) Employee(1) Rich Documentation(1) Family wall(1) Yoga(1) childcare services(1) Trick or treat(1) Providing Leadership to the First 5(1) under 3's(3) Mount Everest(1) Policy and Implementation Panel(1) supportive environments(2) Learning journals(1) Irish Childhood Bereavement Network(1) ECCE(7) Building Resilience(1) Early Years(1) Dr Mary O'Kane(1) Siolta blog(8) Participation(2) life long learning(1) youdoodle(1) awards 2020(1) ELC(1) Supernanny(1) Maths(5) Design(1) parents(6) dining(1) budget(1) Environment(2) Titles(1) Inspections(1) maternity health(1) outdoor play(6) Together Old and Young Programme(1) Leprechauns(1) Orla Kenny(1) Child Care(1) Window(1) child-centric(1) Pobal sector profile(1) Growing up Outdoors(1) Routines(2) Competent(1) Opportunities(1) National Holiday(1) Pobal(1) Mindfulness(2) Biting(1) Document Learning(1) STEM(3) Maynooth University(2) Community involvement(1) Administrative Burden(1) Builders(1) Grief(1) primary education(1) Santa(2) Upcycling(1) Budget 2020(1) communication(4) Snakes(1) Qualifications(1) Confidence(1) Consent(1) Primary School(2) Inclusion(3) Scéalta Book Review(1) Music(3) Infectious diseases(1) gender stereotype(1) science week(2) General Data Protection Regulation(1) Youtube Series(1) trust(4) journey(1) Equality(1) DES Inspection(1) Affordability(1) Treasure(1) Buddies(1) ICBN(1) early life(1) babies(7) Queues(1) bonds(1) Inter-generational(2) College(1) Maths Week Ireland(1) staying connected(1) Anxiety(2) Nutrition(1) Early Childhood Ireland(3) Síolta(118) Afghanistan(1) Decision Making(1) Laugh(1) Oireachtas(1) bloom app(1) The Jelly King(1) social science(1) Independence(1) racism(1) Culture(2) Story(1) Inter-generational learning(2) GoToMeeting app(1) Universal Design Guidelines(1) child-centred approach(1) IGL(1) Children(4) emotional environment(2) Engineering Ireland(1) Sociodramatic play(1) Sessional service(1) Online(1) toddlers(3) Care-giving routines(1) Performing(1) keep in touch(1) Laughter(1) Cork(1) dublin(2) COVID-19 crisis(1) books(4) Celebrate(1) Ariana Pucci(1) Wesco(1) Norway(2) Partnership with Families Innovation Award(2) pets(1) Hand Hygiene(2) dining experiences(1) Wonder(1) Irish(1) Kids Own(1) New Appointments(1) Smiles(1) Childhood(1) play therapy(1) reopening ireland(1) Reggio(1) Síolta Quality Assurance programme(1) developing motor skills(1) Communicating(1) Pedagogical leaders(1) Obesity(1) Covid19 crisis(1) Limerick(1) Sleep(1) phone apps(1) Painting(1) Growing up in Ireland(3) Mayo(1) Early Learning and Care Centres(1) conversations(1) Nuturing interactions(1) Síolta QAP(1) Challenges(1) Time Out(1) Treasure Chest(1) Fabric(1) TRAP(1) Children's Voice(1) continual professional development(1) Recycling(2) SAC(1) education(2) Nonverbal(1) Child mental health(1) Communications(1) preschool settings(1) Engagement(1) Frustrations(1) Sustainability(3) Adoption(1) Awards 2019(1) Creativity(4) Maths Week(1) Visual Impairment(1) Thanks(1) food(1) relationships(17) Touch(1) Technology(3) Emergent Curriculum(1) Xbox(1) Awards Night(1) Self Help Skills(1) collaboration(1) National Childcare Scheme(1) Storytelling(6) Early Learning and Care(1) Kilkenny(1) Favouritism(1) Pedagogy(1) Mark Twain(1) Digital(1) Reading Time(1) Love(2) Children and families(1) Event Guide(1) Book Club(2) curiosity(3) Role play(1) Leargas(1) Liz Kerrins(1) Self-regulation(1) Running(1) Mathematicians(1) St. Patrick's Day(1) Syria(1) Eritrea(1) Italy(1) COVID-19 Reopening(1) meals(3) Effect of Lockdown(1) Health(2) Rituals(1) Special Needs Assistants(1) COVID-19(5) EECERA 2016(1) Line-ups(1) Access and Inclusion Model(2) First 5 strategy(1) Flowers(1) family time(1) UD(1) Universal Design(2) community(5) Japan(1) early years research(2) Department of Children and Youth Affairs(2) dogs(1) Wendy Lee(3) Breathing(2) lockdown(1) Seas Suas(1) Through the looking glass(1) Aistear Siolta Practice Guide(1) Home Corner(1) Professionalisation(5) value(1) MECPI(1) listen(1) Graduation(1) educarer(1) Interactions(2) Early Childhood Ireland’s National Early Childhood Research Conference 2019(1) code of ethics(1) children development(1) Research Seminar(1) research submissions(1) Magnavacchi(1) behavioural science(1) Super Shed Stories(2) Scents(1) Meal time(1) School Age Childcare(1) Support(1) Jillian van Turnhout(1) Training(2) Cork Institute of Technology(1) Aldo Fortunati(4) gender bias(1) Reggio Emilia(1) overhear(1) Your place(1) Plastic(1) Kerry(1) learning(19) risky play(2) listening(1) Capable(1) Digital Devices(1) Lego(2) The Lullaby Book(1) Scéalta Blog(99) Study Trip(1) Advocacy(1) Covid pandemic(1) Frosty the Snowman(1) Christmas Creativity(2) Department of Education and Skills(1) Rising to the Challenge(2) Feeding(1) Empathy(1) National Awards 2019(1) University(1) worries(1) ears(1) Iceland(1) Jenga(1) Weather(1) Horizon 2020(1) play pod(1) scéalta(38) Sport(1) grandchild(1) Reopening Childcare(1) Annual Conference 2017(2) Imagination(3) Care routines(1) LINC Award for Leadership in Inclusion(2) Body Language(1) emotions(2) Names(1) Iraq(1) Children's Research Network(1) GDPR(1) ERASMUS+(3) Snacks(1) Exploring and Thinking(1) Inspirational(2) Deirdre Rogers(1) RTE Investigates(1) Reflective Practice(1) pablo(1) Autism(4) National Bereaved Children's Awareness Week(1) Patterns(1) Irish Early Years Research & Practice Seminar 2018(1) outdoors(3) ECEC(2) Graduate(1) Awards(2) Annual Conference 2019(1) Tuscan Approach(2) National Pyjama Day(1) Trade union(1) RIE philosphy(1) Confident(1) Human Resources(1) National Awards 2018(2) Budget 2018(1) Craft(1) National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education(1) Staff Motivation(1) documentation(4) Book Review(1) Meet the Members(1) AsIAm(2) Maynooth(1) European Project(1) United Nations(1) Buddy Bench(1) Valentine's Day(3) Behaviour(3) TOY Programme(1) Halloween(2) Research Conference 2019(1) Potential(1) learners(1) Wrapping paper(1) Change(1) Engineers Week(2) Childcare(3) DCYA(4) stories(3) Recycle(1) San Miniato(4) Playdough(1) Early Childhood Care and Education(2) show and tell(1) keezy(1) Educator of the Year Award(3) educating(1)


Site maintained and developed by Cloud Nine