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Brain Snacks: Physical Touch

Physical touch is another form of love language, where you can express your affection through touch. This includes hugging, holding hands, and even high fives! It is possibly the easiest and simplest way to connect and use unconditionally. Physical touch is very important because it is vital to the child’s emotional development. The language of touch is not confined to a hug or a kiss, but includes any kind of physical contact.

Physical Touch through the Growing Years

Infants and Toddlers (0 to 3 years)

  • Infants can tell the difference between gentle vs. harsh touch

  • Loving physical touch such as hugs and kisses, playful (and safe!) wrestling, and piggyback rides are vital to the child’s emotional development.

  • The more parents keep the emotional tank full, the healthier the child’s self esteem and sexual identity will be.

School-age Children (4 to 10 years)

  • At this stage, children are facing new and challenging experiences at this age in school. Home should be a haven for them where they feel secure love. Hugging your children before they leave for school or when they come home may be the difference between emotional security and insecurity for them.

  • Much of physical touch at this stage in a child’s life will come through playing games, bear hugs, high fives, playful wrestling etc.

  • A favorite kind of physical touch for many parents is to hold a small child while reading a story.

  • Parents tend to show less affection through physical touch to boys than to girls, but this should not be the case. Parents need to make sure that they treat boys in the same way they do girls and they should not be hesitant in expressing their love through hugs & kisses.

Teenagers (14 to 19 years)

  • In the child’s teenage years, it is important to keep in mind that physical touch from the same-sex parent, and opposite-sex parent are both essential.

  • As young teenage sons are seeking to develop their own independent identity at this age, they might feel a bit of hesitation when their mothers show physical affection, especially in front of their friends. Same goes with fathers and their daughters. Time, place, and your child’s consent are important because “you don’t want to force physical touch on a teenager (Chapman, 2012).”

  • You need to honor their feelings, whether they are expressed in words or by actions. However, if they constantly refuse your touch, you need to make time to talk with them about the reasons for this.

Not a natural touch lover? No problem!

Exercises that you can do if you are not a natural toucher or if physical touch is not your primary love language, to break down the barriers to physical touch! You may repeat this exercise once a day until you have enough courage to initiate physical touch to your child.

  • It might help if you begin practicing loving touches on yourself.

  • You can start by taking your hand and touching your arm, beginning at the wrist and working slowly up to your shoulder, gently rubbing your shoulders. Do this for both arms and shoulders.

  • You can also run both hands through your hair, massaging your scale from front to back.

  • Sit up straight with both feet on the floor and pat your legs. If you want, you can do this with rhythm.

  • Place one hand on your stomach.

  • Lean over and touch your feet and massage your ankles.

Here are some ideas on how to show your love to your child through physical touch:

Other ideas to show love through physical touch:

  • Give your child a high-five when they do a good job

  • Tickle fights or playful wrestling

  • Read stories together with your child on your lap

  • Give you child a soft item, like a blanket or a pillow for them to cuddle to soothe them

  • Spend extra time with child when they’re sick by wiping his/her face with cloth or cuddling them


Chapman, G. D., & Campbell, R. (2012). The 5 love languages of children: The secret to loving children effectively.

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