Is it Safe to Tickle Your Baby? Find Out!

Is It Safe or Harmful to Tickle Babies?

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Arti Sharma (Paediatrician)
View more Paediatrician Our Panel of Experts

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!

Video: Is It Safe to Tickle Your Baby?

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. So, is it bad to tickle babies?

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.

When Can Babies Be Tickled?

There is no way to know when do babies get ticklish. The best way out is to try tickling your baby after they are six months old. At this age, your little one will be able to make sounds to express happiness or discomfort.

At What Age Do Infants Understand Tickling?

Babies are often sensitive to touch up to the age of six months. This sensitivity fades by the age of six months, and a touch, such as a tickle, may not cause a sensory overload.

Signs a Baby Does Not Enjoy Being Tickled

Following are the signs that indicate your baby is not enjoying tickling.

  • Grimace and teary-eyed
  • Sounds of displeasure
  • Pushes hand away
  • Tries to roll away
  • Crawl away when tickled

When Should You Avoid Tickling a Baby?

You should avoid tickling your little one in the following cases:

  • Sickness or disease
  • During and after feeding
  • Baby is drowsy or sleepy
  • Baby’s attention is preoccupied with something else

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. Here are a few problems associated with tickling your little one:

1. Physical Harm

If your child is too young, tickling them can lead to physical harm. It can be too extreme for their delicate skin, leading to redness, irritation, and injury.

2. Trust Issues

When you tickle your baby, they may discern that you are ignoring their boundaries and physical autonomy, making them feel uncomfortable, violated, and confused about the nature of touch and intimacy. It ultimately undermines their trust in the adult and their ability to set and execute boundaries.

3. Humiliation

Tickling kids can make some of them feel really bad, especially if it happens in front of others. It might make them feel embarrassed and not good about themselves, causing them to worry and feel nervous. Also, if someone tickles a baby in a way that’s mean or makes fun of them, it can create a bad relationship between the grown-up and the child, where the grown-up is trying to control the child.

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.
  • Indulge with your child in blowing bubbles and making funny sounds.


1. Why Your Baby Doesn’t Laugh When You Tickle Him/Her?

Babies might not laugh when tickled because they might not like the feeling or find it enjoyable. Also, they are still learning about their senses and how to interact with others, which could be why they don’t laugh when tickled.

2. Where Should You Tickle Your Baby?

You can tickle babies on their stomachs, necks, under the knees, and toes.

3. Do Babies Experience Ticklish Sensations While in the Womb?

While in the womb, fetuses feel various touch sensations, but these are limited to individual occurrences.

4. Does Tickling Cause Sudden Infant Death Syndrome?

No, but excessive tickling can also lead to anxiety in babies.

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.


1. Womb with a view: Sensory development in utero;;

2. Important Milestones: Your Baby By Six Months;;

3. What Happens In A Baby’s Brain When They’re Getting Tickled? Experts Explain;;

4. Interesting Facts About Tickling;;

5. Tickling Kids Can Do More Harm Than Good;;

Also Read:

How to Make a Baby Laugh?
How to Encourage Your Baby to Smile?
Ideas to Tickle your Baby’s Funny Bone

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