Last Updated on October 4, 2023 by Editorial Team
When you touch a soft fur-like fabric, and at the same time, when you feel a hard rough stone, you know which one is the softer one, and which one is the granulated stone. This is possible only through the tactile sense, which is a part of the neurological sensory system.
Simply put, the reason why as individuals we are able to differentiate between fabrics, and items is all due to tactile discrimination, which is the ability to be mindful of one’s sense of touch, recognize what is being touched, and differentiate information by touching.
Although, most of us develop this sense of knowing what exactly we are feeling and touching without realizing it, however, this skill too can be enhanced and taught to little learners with the help of some activities. Hence, in this post, we will navigate through some activities that can help our budding learners be more conscious of the feel of objects around them.
Tactile discrimination: Why is it a must-have skill?
Tactile Discrimination, the power, and ability to tell what it is that you are touching is regulated by our somatosensory cortex receiving and processing detailed tactile information which is usually gained largely through the receptors of our skin, lips, tongue, mouth, palms, and soles.
Tactile discrimination is an essential survival ability that is used in adaptation and also our day-to-day life, which makes this a must-have skill for all individuals, young or old. While most adults are aware of what they are touching, it would be a good idea to make the little ones more conscious about this ability, so that they can assess the things better around them, just by a touch.
The ability to differentiate between objects also gives the power to plan future actions. For example, if the student feels that they have touched something pointed and rough, something from which they can get hurt, they must immediately remove their hand. However, to gather this idea of immediately removing the hand, they first must get an idea of the tactility of the object. Moreover, learning and grasping more about this skill is also crucial because it enlightens them in knowing:
- What is being touched and looked for
- What is it that is needed to be done with that object
- How to hold the object
- How much pressure to apply
- How to place it
- Recognizing its shape, size, and structure
Being a must-have skill for daily activities it has also had some serious effects on treatments of various pain-related problems. Tactile discrimination training has resulted in the reduction of chronic limb pain and the improvement of cortical reorganization. This implies that tactile discrimination regulates the intensities at which the brain processes pain. The study also found out that only discriminating between tactile stimuli would decrease pain but tactile stimulation alone would not.
Hence, it would be a good idea for adults to engage the little learners in activities that can help them understand more about Tactile Discrimination.
Activities for improving tactile discrimination skills in kids
1. Mystery Box
When an individual sees an object and then feels it, it becomes quite facile for them to understand and get to know what exactly they are touching. Hence, the concept of a mystery box, where the learner does not know what they are touching can be a good approach to teaching more about tactile discrimination.
- For this activity, teachers or parents can put some objects inside any type of box, such as beads, pencils, spoons, and all kinds of random objects.
- Now, the participants have to tell what is the object in front of them without being able to see it.
- The fact that they can recognize a pencil and an eraser just by touching them gives an idea to the students about the feel of different items when they are just touched and not seen.
- Alternatively, the activity can also be made a little tougher by adding similar objects, similar identical objects, and related objects, and having the participants find the matching pair or sort shapes such as different kinds of pasta in order to make the activity more challenging.
This would help students to understand the proper feel and touch of an item. This would not only help them understand the same items better in the future, but they will also unconsciously learn how different objects have a different feel to them.
2. Feel it and Describe it Box
While feeling an object and guessing it might be challenging, another arduous job for a little learner can be to describe the object they are feeling. For this, they need to be observant and know the various adjectives that they are using for a particular item.
- For this activity, the educator or parent must create a box, covered on all sides with a vent.
- In this box, turn by turn, or in a lot of boxes like this box, an object can be kept participants have to describe the object by its features such as rough, smooth, hot, wet, solid, hard, soft, and so on.
- Each student can be given a task to say any 5 words that can best describe that particular object. For example, while feeling cotton, they must speak words like soft, light, fluffy, etc.
Once little learners are observant and conscious of these adjectives and how every item particularly feels, they will be able to assess the other objects and surfaces better, and this is what this particular activity aims at.
3. Tactile Hunt
This is an outdoor activity that can be played as a game similar to a treasure hunt. Teachers and parents need to hide some objects in various places. It is to be kept in mind that all these objects must differ in feel.
- Next up, the student would be given clues for objects by describing their texture, size, and shape. For instance, these clues may look like- something hard, rough, uneven, and thick (for a branch of a tree or log of wood).
- Similarly, other clues can be created based on the physical setting where the activity is being conducted such as a park or playground.
Based on the clues and the adjectives being used to describe them, students would now run around to find the items. To take it a level up, the moderators can also describe the object and its placement as “find an object that is really hard and rough. It is hidden under a soft yet uneven but wet item.”
This will not only allow students to gather a sense of different surfaces but finding them based on their description will help them differentiate better.
4. Pin the Tail on the Donkey
Pinning the tail on the donkey is a fun activity that can be conducted at home or school. For this activity, the teacher needs the students to collectively make a big donkey figure with the help of chart paper. This also can be a fun creative activity hour assignment. Next up, the teacher needs to cut out the tail of the donkey as this would be used to pin.
- To introduce the little learners to the concept of tactile discrimination, the donkey must have various textures. For this, the students can stick some cotton on one part, rough item sand on one part, and various other textured items.
- This donkey imagery is stuck now on a board and each participant is blindfolded and handed a paper tail with a push pin or a double tape put on it.
- The blindfolded participant is then spun around until he or she is disoriented.
- This creates visual ambiguity among the participants. To make it more challenging, the participant can also be blindfolded.
- The participant is then expected to touch the paper donkey placed on a wall or a board to feel where exactly the tail is to be put. They will feel the entire image and the various kinds of surfaces and then pin the tail with the given pin or tape on the donkey at the right place by recognizing the same only through touch.
This activity is not only creative but an excellent method to teach the little learners about the feel of various items. Since the activity involves creating a donkey from scratch, this will also help them push their creative buttons. The teacher can ask the students about the various items that have different textures that can be stuck on the paper donkey; this will help them differentiate between the various items’ feel and tactility.
5. Let’s get dressed
For this activity, the student has to get dressed by taking out certain items from their cupboard. Hence, the parents can list out any 5 items like – shorts, a T-shirt, shoes, socks, and a belt.
- The student must now close their eyes, or get blindfolded to begin the search for their apparel.
- They now need to hunt for these items in their cupboard by feeling them.
- For an added challenge, the parents can put up a timer of 2 minutes, and within that time frame, the students need to take out the items based on their touch and feel.
This will allow the students to understand the different touches of every item within their cupboard. Teaching through daily use of objects has a different level of advantage as little learners are able to relate with them on the next level.
6. Give me the opposite
This activity can be conducted in a class, or at home. Basically, in this tactile discrimination activity, the students would be asked to search for an exactly opposite item in terms of touch and feel. However, the shape of the item should be somewhat similar to the item being shown by the parent or teacher.
- If being conducted in school, the students can be divided into teams.
- The teacher would now show any object, like an orange.
- The kid now needs to find something hard and tough. However, the prerequisite here would be that the shape of the object that the student finds should be round as well, like the orange.
Hence, this activity would not only teach students about the various types of surfaces but will also help them to understand how the shaped items can have different touches and feel. Students would also learn more about shapes and sizes through this activity.
Tactile discrimination is an essential skill as it helps in our daily chores and is required to lead a normal life. While this skill is often learned by self as the kid grows up, however, it is always a good idea to teach the students the differentiations between different types of surfaces and how they feel differently.
This ability to touch and feel is all due to the tiny receptors in the muscles and joints. These then transmit the message to the brain. Along with the activities, the teachers can also explain this process to the little learners in an easy manner so that they exactly know what the concept is, and what is the science behind it.
- Moseley, G. L., Zalucki, N. M., & Wiech, K. (2008). Tactile discrimination, but not tactile stimulation alone, reduces chronic limb pain. PAIN®, 137(3), 600-608. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pain.2007.10.021
An engineer, Maths expert, Online Tutor and animal rights activist. In more than 5+ years of my online teaching experience, I closely worked with many students struggling with dyscalculia and dyslexia. With the years passing, I learned that not much effort being put into the awareness of this learning disorder. Students with dyscalculia often misunderstood for having just a simple math fear. This is still an underresearched and understudied subject. I am also the founder of Smartynote -‘The notepad app for dyslexia’,