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Why is Touch in learning so important? Written for EduExcellence by Dr. Beulah van der Westhuizen.

With touch being the first sense to develop, it is no wonder that it plays a major role in learning.

At a mere 4 weeks after conception, touch receptors are being formed. These receptors will continue to develop and provide the brain with vital information about the environment.

The importance of the skin and touch as a sense is also very noticeable in babies, and toddlers, when they touch and mouth the objects in their world to obtain information.

This also speaks to the skin's importance in bonding and creating deep and meaningful interpersonal connections. As the largest organ in the body, the skin creates the interface between our inner and outer worlds and speaks to the amount of information being pushed through to the brain.

As this sense is a “primitive sense” it lays the foundation for learning, not only about the world around us, but also the people around us. The quality of touch speaks volumes as to the person we are touched by. This, coupled by a soft voice and nurturing tone, creates a neural network ensuring us that the world is a safe space. Researchers believe that affective touch helps infants and children create healthy neural reward systems. Positive touch received within a positive nuclear family correlates with sustained positive emotions.

Early communication between a baby and parents is often accompanied by touch. While teaching basic vocabulary, parents often include a gentle touch. This has been found to improve children’s understanding of parent communication. Finally, touch can be a way for children to communicate their feelings with caregivers, even in children as young as five months old.

Schools that are aware of and sensitive to the role of touch as a sense and learning organ, will do well in creating a sensory sensitive environment. Hands-on learning stimulates growth of the brain. The right side is stimulated through visual stimuli, creativity and using the imagination; the left side through problem solving, spatial awareness, sorting and organizing.

The process of learning this way takes place through action and active participation. The brain is stimulated in multiple areas through physical learning experiences. The moment other senses are also engage, a rich multi-sensory experience is created, resulting in dense neuro pathways being formed.

Through their seven senses, children develop an understanding of their world and engage with different learning styles.

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