Tactile therapy

Arja Kumar (TheLorian)

Does everyone remember the slime trend? The goopy substance went viral circa 2016, and people young and old were obsessed with it. There were YouTube videos, kits sold in stores, and even slime parties hosted by equally slime-crazed mom’s and dad’s. But what was so appealing about slime, and why did people of all ages love sinking their hands into the jiggly stuff, molding and playing with it for hours on end? It comes down to the sensation of touch. The sense of touch is important to understanding the world around us and in making us feel secure. Anything that we touch and that touches us stimulates the brain, and consequently, our thoughts and feelings. Tactile therapy, or touch therapy, is hence a great sensory way to relieve stress or boredom. 

Besides slime, there are so many different kinds of tactile play that are fun. There‚Äôs finger painting, sensory bins (filled with beans, water beads, rice, pom-poms, macaroni, etc.), shaving cream, soap carving, blowing and popping bubbles, chalking the sidewalk, or sculpting with playdough. One can even relax with natural elements like water, sand, dirt, or leaves. Zen gardens, which are mini tabletop landscapes that use rocks, sand, or gravel to imitate the essence of nature, are a popular way to meditate or increase mindfulness. According to BuddhaGroove, it is believed that the art of raking the sand and creating different patterns can help order peace to the wandering mind. 

Even everyday, ordinary activities like cooking and gardening can be wonderful ways to stimulate the touch senses. Just picking and chopping vegetables for soup, kneading and rolling dough for bread, or tearing apart fragrant herbs into tiny bits and shreds can have a calming effect on the mind. Making your own pizza or pasta is a favorite and enjoyable example of a recipe that stimulates the sense of touch. Another cool tactile recipe is making dirt cups. Making jiggly pudding, crushing Oreos, and picking through colorful, squishy gummy worms is a fun thing to do and creates an even more fun thing to eat! 

There are also a great deal of tactile sensory items available to buy online or in stores. Some examples include scented putty, kinetic sand, fidget spinners, fidget cubes, bubble pop molds, animal squeezies, or monkey noodles. One of the best items on the market is Nee Doh, a fascinating color-changing stress ball. According to the Schylling Company, Nee Doh is the groovy glob that will help you mellow out if feeling stressed or on edge. A simple squeeze, squish, pull, or smush will help soothe your soul, blow your mind, and get you feeling groovy fast. I personally love this item and use it all the time to play with for fun. Besides being great for oneself, tactile items also make great gifts for friends, family, or other loved ones. 

Stimulating the tactile senses is an amusing and effective way to do a kind of self-therapy. The act of touching immediately distracts from whatever is bothering the mind. It does this by drawing one from the realm of mental to physical. One can release mental stress by physically acting it out on things like putty, stress balls, or squeezies, or, one can gain calm from raking sand, popping bubbles, or making an entertaining recipe. So, next time one feels stressed, bored, or restless, try tactile therapy!

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