Your toddler is learning about the world around them through his senses, like smell, touch and taste. Learn about different sensory play activities that can involve calming or alerting touch.

Activities that involve touch

There are 2 types of activities that involve touching (also called tactile activities). These are calming activities and alerting activities.

With tactile activities, always approach your toddler from the front. Ask if it is okay to touch them. Give them the choice to say yes or no.

Calming activities

Calming activities help to calm your toddler. Touching with firm, but gentle pressure can be calming to toddlers who get overwhelmed easily.

  • Bear hug or piggyback ride
  • Back rub or massage
  • Sleep in a sleeping bag or with sheets made from satin or silk or ay under a weighted blanket. A weighted blanker for a toddler should weigh 6 pounds or less. You can also wrap your toddler in a blanket or sleeping bag or sheet.
  • Create a safe, quiet space for your toddler to go when he feels overwhelmed.

Alerting activities

Alerting activities help your toddler feel more awake or aware. Light touching can help toddlers who enjoy feeling more awake or alert.

  • Dig for objects hidden in different textures, like toys in a sandbox.
  • Play in a water or sand table.
  • After a bath, rub your toddler quickly and firmly with a towel
  • Play with beanbags of different colors and textures

Use your best judgment and be safe when doing sensory play with your toddler. Watch your child at all times when using smaller objects. Do not let your toddler put small objects in their mouth. Call 911 if there is an emergency.

Learn More


Rev. 8/2018

Reviewed by the MGHfC Family Advisory Council

MassGeneral Hospital for Children and Massachusetts General Hospital do not endorse any of the brands listed on this handout. This handout is intended to provide health information so that you can be better informed. It is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to treatment of any medical conditions.