Guiding Hands

Becoming familiar with new textures, situations, and sensory activities may take your child many opportunities, that’s only natural. To try and support you, we’ve recommended an approach called Guiding Hands, which you may find helpful to try with your child during everyday movements and play. 

Moving around and exploring new things can be difficult and frightening for your child if they can’t see fully what’s around them or what they’re about to touch. To help them to understand and interact with their world, they may rely more on sound, smell and touch to inform, motivate and make sense of their surroundings.  

It’s important that any new experiences and interactions are fun, positive and one your child has control over, so they're more likely to repeat and build on those experiences. Learning through play can develop a broad range of skills, such as communication skills, gross motor skills and an understanding of the world.

Using a Guiding Hands approach can encourage your child to explore with greater independence, confidence and freedom. It could help them to be more active, more willing to explore what's around them and learn how their body moves. 

Wherever possible, use Guiding Hands to help your child find and interact with toys placed near them. For example, to reach out for objects or participate in crafts or messy play. Here are a few tips you may find helpful:

  • Make sure your child has the freedom to pull their hands away if they don’t like something.
  • Try to avoid picking your child's hands up and placing them straight onto an object or toy, or into messy play and craft stuff, as they may get a fright. 
  • Let your child know what you’re going to be doing and touching.
  • Try not to hold your child's hands straightaway (hand-under-hand), instead guide your hands from their shoulders down. You can then: 
    • Place their hands on top of yours so you can explore a toy, object or activity together.
    • Guide both your child’s hands from their elbow or wrist, whilst making sure their arms are relaxed, so their fingers or hands lightly touch the object. Your child can then choose whether they want to continue to touch the toy or not. 
  • Encourage your child to relax; if their arms are stiff, they may not be able to reach out.
  • You could let the object touch the back of your child's hand and, if they choose, they can explore it more.