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GIVE A BABY A HUG
Do you touch your baby enough? That may seem like a silly question. Still, just at a time when researchers are discovering more and more emotional as well as medical benefits from touch, they are also finding that young children are getting touched less than ever. They have some pretty good ideas why, too. For one, ďBabies are spending too much time in infant seats,Ē says brain development researcher Lise Eliot of the Chicago Medical School. The convenience of these seats has a cost. In the simple motion of lifting a baby from stroller to car or vice versa, thereís often a quick kiss or big smile, some close contact with Mom or Dadís face, voice, and body warmth. Whatís more, every time a baby is moved without being lifted from the carrier, itís one less chance for neck and abdominal muscles to get exercise and for vestibular stimulation, which helps develop balance.

Psychologist Tiffany Field, the nationís leading touch researcher, tells parents to use the portable infant seats or strollers sparingly, especially for babies younger than six months. ďMost infants prefer to be in contact with you, to smell and feel you,Ē she says. Itís a matter of emotional security as well as sensory stimulation. At birth, touch is the most highly developed sense, with biological and psychological benefits. An infant should be held for a portion of every waking hour but not 100 percent of the time. When theyíre awake, babies need tummy time to strengthen upper body muscles. Stanley Greenspan, a child psychiatrist who teaches at George Washington University, says that touch is critical be-cause itís the only sense that accomplishes three things babies need; It provides a sense of security and safety through cuddling, engages them with the human world, and begins the process of back and forth communication.

The emotional wholeness of children is greatly enhanced when they have the warm, loving touch of parents. In infancy, children receive a lot of touching in diapering, dressing, feeding, and carrying. Even though they outgrow babyhood, they do not outgrow their need for warm caresses. During a childís early years, hugs and kisses usually continue to be given quite naturally, but when the child begins to mature, such touching affection sometimes almost stops. Some adults are not comfortable with such expressions of affection themselves, or they deem it to be inappropriate or even unnecessary. It has been found that children who grow up without parental hugs or physical affection suffer emotionally. They grow into adults who are handicapped from adequately showing love or expressing emotions. Even more extreme, as teenagers they can be prime targets for the cults who offer a family-type atmosphere. Letís start today to give a warm baby a hug.

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