Exploring the World Through Touch: Tactile Therapy Activities for Children with Sensory Processing Disorder

For children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), the sense of touch can be a double-edged sword. Certain textures and sensations can be overwhelming, leading to meltdowns and anxiety, while others can be calming and organizing. This is where Tactile Therapy comes in, providing a safe and engaging environment for children to explore and develop a healthy relationship with touch.

What is Tactile Therapy?

Tactile Therapy is a branch of occupational therapy that focuses on stimulating and integrating the tactile system. Through a variety of activities, children learn to process tactile information more effectively, leading to:

  • Reduced sensitivity to touch: Diminishing reactions to unpleasant textures and sensations.
  • Improved sensory discrimination: Recognizing and differentiating between different textures.
  • Enhanced motor skills: Developing fine motor control and coordination.
  • Increased self-awareness: Gaining a better understanding of their bodies and sensory needs.
  • Improved emotional regulation: Learning to manage anxiety and meltdowns related to tactile oversensitivity.

5 Examples of Tactile Therapy Activities:

Play Dough:

  • Description: Play dough provides a malleable and tactile experience, allowing children to squeeze, mold, and shape the dough, strengthening hand muscles and promoting sensory integration.
  • Variations: Use different colors and scents of play dough, add small objects like beads or glitter, or create tools for cutting and shaping.

Sensory Bins:

  • Description: Filled with various textures and materials like sand, beans, water beads, and rice, sensory bins offer a stimulating and engaging experience for exploring different textures.
  • Variations: Add small toys or objects to the bin for scooping, burying, and digging, or theme the bin around different seasons or holidays.

Finger Painting:

  • Description: Finger painting allows children to explore textures and colors with their hands, promoting tactile and visual sensory integration.
  • Variations: Use different types of paint like shaving cream, yogurt, or pudding for a more multi-sensory experience, or add glitter or small objects for additional texture.

Sensory Brushes:

  • Description: Gentle brushing with textured brushes provides deep pressure input, which can be calming and organizing for children with tactile defensiveness.
  • Variations: Use brushes with different textures and materials, incorporate different brushing techniques, or combine brushing with other sensory activities like music or rocking.

Texture Walks:

  • Description: Walking barefoot on different surfaces like grass, sand, rocks, and carpet provides a variety of tactile sensations and promotes foot awareness and proprioception.
  • Variations: Create a sensory path with different textures, incorporate obstacle courses with textured surfaces, or play games like “I Spy” focusing on different textures.

Additional Tips for Tactile Therapy:

    • Start slow and gradually introduce new textures and sensations.
    • Provide choices and allow children to explore different materials at their own pace.
    • Pair tactile activities with other sensory modalities like music or movement.
    • Make activities fun and engaging to maintain motivation.
    • Work with a qualified occupational therapist to develop a personalized treatment plan.


  • By incorporating these tactile therapy activities into daily life, children with SPD can develop a more positive relationship with touch, leading to a happier and more fulfilling childhood. Remember, every child is unique, and what works for one child may not work for another. Consult a qualified occupational therapist to tailor a program that caters specifically to your child’s needs and preferences.



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