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Be it with your parents, your siblings, relatives, or friends, everybody, at some point in time, has engaged in games and playful tickle fights until somebody laughed their guts out. But very few have wondered if tickling is unsafe for toddlers or if it is a good way to bond with them. For most people, since tickling someone results in causing that person to laugh uncontrollably, that ought to be a good sign. But, studies have indicated that it may not always be the case because there are incidents where tickling is painful for people. So, should you tickle your baby? Let’s find out!
Can You Tickle a Baby?
Tickling kids can get them laughing, but the same cannot be said about babies. A few babies may end up giving you a vague smile, but most of them may not immediately like the sensation, similar to many older kids or adults.
Young babies can barely communicate what they feel. So, even if they do not like the sensation, there is no way they can let you know, apart from the times, when it gets too intense, and they might burst out crying. While light touches on the belly and the heel are fine to invoke the sensations, proper tickling should be strictly reserved until your little one grows up to be a kid who can communicate well.
Problem Associated With Tickling
On encountering the thought that tickling might be problematic for your kids, most parents cannot truly recognize what the problem is. Your child is laughing when you tickle him, so that is bound to make him happy, right? Well, not exactly. Tickling leads to an automated response programmed in the brain, which usually is laughter. When tickled, the person’s brain receives signals that cause him to react with laughter. Many children do complain of a painful experience, even when they are laughing. And, since the response is automated, older kids may not be able to stop the laughter and yet request the tickler to stop tickling. The tickler, unable to understand that the kid is in pain, usually doesn’t stop because the kid has been laughing all the time.
Other than the issue mentioned above, tickling is also connected to several myths. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Myths About Tickling and Baby’s Development
Many think tickling can help a baby develop faster as it generates an immediate response, which includes laughter, crying, and even making sounds. Here are some myths you should be aware of before you include tickling into your baby’s daily activities.
1. Tickling Helps the Baby Talk
Some say tickling can entice a baby to start talking. Tickling is a strong form of physical contact with a person, that results in uncontrollable laughter. So, it will not necessarily help your baby speak out his first words. However, light sensations in the body can cause one to feel ticklish, and because babies have a strong sense of touch in the early stages of their infancy, these light sensations could help develop their language skills to some extent.
Therefore, assisting your little one to form tiny vague words can be effective when you engage him with some simple light touches on his feet, palms, tummy, etc., and repeating simple words. For example, repetitively such as “aaa” and touching your baby’s chin, will teach him to open his mouth and say “aaa” over a period of time. The same can be done in numerous other ways.
2. Tickling Can Cause Stuttering in a Child
There is no semblance of truth that tickling can cause stuttering in a child. Stuttering may begin to manifest in the early ages of the child’s development, but the actual cause is yet to be conclusively discovered.
3. Tickling Is a Good Exercise/Activity for Babies
As mentioned earlier, tickling leads to laughter, which is a programmed response; however, it doesn’t mean the baby is enjoying it. Excessive tickling can lead to chest and stomach pain. When tickled, babies take short breaths and thus will gasp for air. This could also lead to baby hiccups. Therefore, tickling is, in no way, a good exercise for babies.
Now that you know tickling is not a healthy activity for your baby, here are other ways you can bond with your child.
Alternate Ways to Bond With Your Child
If your goal is to bond with your child, there are other ways to do so instead of tickling him. Here are some of them:
- Kiss your little one on his nose or play a game of finger men walking across his body.
- Body contact can be established if you make use of some baby oil and massage your little one regularly.
- Gently touching your baby’s palms, hands, and feet is also a healthy way to stimulate movement in his limbs and build the bond.
- As your child grows up, you can read books to him and establish an enhanced level of the parent-child bond.
- With older children, you could play clapping games like Patty Cake, Miss Mary Mack, Tick-Tac-Toe, Rocking Robins, etc.
- Hugging your child, ensuring him you are there for him, and kissing him on the forehead are some more ways you can strengthen your bond with your little one.
While engaging in tickling matches might have been your childhood, it is necessary to know that tickling a baby does hurt him at times. Establishing better and funnier ways of engaging with your little one can give you the benefit of bonding you so desire.