The Child Psychology Of Clothing And Dealing With Tactile Sensitivity In Children

So your child’s facing issues with clothing, and it’s becoming hard to handle the protesting kid. The unexpected behavior of your child while dressing up maybe your chief nuisance these days. The changing mood in the home because your child is turning less cheerful is becoming a matter of concern.

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The Child Psychology Of Clothing And Dealing With Tactile Sensitivity In Children

Is your child complaining of itching or irritation because of certain clothes? Don’t worry! I will help you understand the issue and offer a comprehensive list of tried and tested solutions.

Let’s understand the problem first.

The Child Psychology Of Clothing And Dealing With Tactile Sensitivity In Children

What is Tactile Sensitivity?

Tactile Sensitivity (Tactile Dysfunction) is a sensory dysfunction related to touch. A child with tactile dysfunction either feels the touch too incredibly or does not feel it enough. The child’s skin is abnormally sensitive.

There are two basic types of tactile sensitivity.


If your child is oversensitive to touch, it’s called hypersensitivity. This is the more common type of tactile dysfunction.

Children with hypersensitive skin may develop rashes on the skin because of unsupportive clothing. They may often complain about pain because of certain fabrics or clothes.

If your child panics on touching or expresses extreme repulsion to specific clothing, it’s known as tactile defensiveness.


If your child’s skin is under-sensitive, it’s the case of hyposensitivity. Children with hyposensitivity don’t feel the touch like normal children. They like firm pressures applied to their skin and body.

Hyposensitive children do not feel the weather changes and may be reluctant to wear seasonal clothes. These children require additional sensory input to derive satisfaction.

Tactile sensitivity often manifests itself as a side-effect of specific medical conditions. The most common of these are:

1.  Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)

2.  Autism

3.  Asperger’s Syndrome

4.  Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

5.  Tourette’s Syndrome

4.  Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

However, tactile sensitivity mainly occurs independently of these conditions. It means that your child does not have a developmental disorder but just a sensory condition. Every sixth child has some tactile sensitivity.

Mostly, it cannot be diagnosable to a severe condition. This does not mean that tactile sensitivity is a minor issue.

Besides the physical pain, tactile sensitivity can lead to serious developmental gaps. It can cause personality flaws.

It can hinder or even derail the healthy intellectual, emotional, and personal growth of your child. Tactile issues are most common with clothing and hair-cutting.

Individuals in the child’s circle will learn that the child is averse to touching and hugging. However, with clothing the matters are different. There can’t be clothes that don’t touch the child’s body.

Knowing how the sensory issues with clothing impact your child’s development is just as important as knowing ways of tackling them.

Relationship between Child Psychology and Clothing

Clothing can have an enormous impact on the psychological growth of your child. It’s not just about how society sees your child. Clothing shapes the very socio-intellectual constitution of your child.

Before the world sees what the child is wearing, the child feels his world through what she/he is wearing. It begins impacting the child physically and mentally, even if the child is not interacting with society.  

The symbolic aspect of clothing along with the tactile feeling aspect work together. The tactile element of clothing is more important.

Physical pain, irritation, and unpleasant feelings, etc., will intervene in the brain’s development and perceptive connection-building with the world. Children require peace and comfort to grow mentally and physically at a steady pace.

Tactile sensitivity is reducible to acceptable levels in a slow process. We shall discuss that soon.

The ultimate aim should not be to find the clothing that causes trouble to the child and eliminate it from the collection. That’s just the first strategic step to better combat tactile defensiveness and understand the child’s skin and personality. The ultimate aim is to make the child normally touch-sensitive.

The reason is simple. A normal sensory system means a greater variety of clothing which opens more ways of expression. This ensures the emotional emotional and intellectual growth of your child.

How can clothing impact the Emotional-self of a Child?

How your child feels in clothes impacts the growth of your child’s inner self.

How can clothing impact the Emotional-self of a Child?

Clothing influences the emotional well-being, development, and depth of your child.

  • Clothing is a part of a child’s expression and interaction with the world. Uncomfortable clothes or fabrics that don’t support sensitive skin may bring behavioral changes to the child. This can adversely impact how society treats the child by making the child feel secluded.
  • Children that are happy with their clothes are fitter physically. A healthy mind ensures a healthy body! (Did I need to mention that?) When clothing is comfortable, children are cheerful and confident!
  •  The phenomenon of Enclothed Cognition somewhat applies to kids as well. Enclothed Cognition is the setting-up and repetition of patterns of thinking, feelings, and behavior associated with the way people dress.

In the formative stage, the Child’s Enclothed Cognition is taking shape. It rests on comfort, but ultimately it depends upon how many types of clothes they can wear. For this, tactile sensitivity requires resolution.

How can Clothing influence the Personality and Development of your Child?

Clothes can improve or harm the sensory abilities of your child. The sensory system works as a unit at the psychological level. Uncomfortable clothing because of tactile sensitivity impacts the child’s remaining sensory responses to the outside world.

Sensory difficulties with clothes can lead to the under-development of the child’s responsive actions. Why? As the brain is over-responsive to touch, there’s lesser energy for interpreting other sense perception signals.

Clothes can decide the breadth of a child’s actions and perceptions. Uncomfortable clothes limit a child’s interactions with society by restricting movement, diverting attention, and wasting energy.

Sensory-friendly clothing unleashes the full developmental potential. Finally, resolving tactile sensitivity issues ensures that your child will grow into a multi-faceted personality.

What are the Signs for your child having trouble with Clothing?

There are plenty of signs that children give to express their discomfort with particular clothing and clothing choices. Children have tactile sensitivity issues with clothing if:

1.      They show a preference for particular clothing materials or types of dresses.

  • They like a particular fabric only. Children may express their desire to wear cotton clothes, or woolens, or soft fabrics at all times. They may also dislike either lighter clothes or heavier clothes.
  • They like to wear only shorts, or only pants, no matter what the season. They may also want to wear either tight dresses or loose dresses all the time. 
They show a preference for particular clothing materials or types of dresses.

2.      Seams annoy them

  • They express their displeasure with the seams in the socks.
  • They show that underwear seams are causing discomfort.

3.      They show their aversion to shoes.

  •  They may dislike wearing shoes or footwear made of specific materials.
  •  They may be averse to wearing anything on their feet. They love to go bare feet! 

4.      They Hate Particular Dresses

  •  They may refuse to wear coats, jeans, underwear, shirts, etc. 

5.      They have problems with Sleeves and Hems.

  •  Sometimes children may dislike the sleeves touching their wrists.
  • They may not want to wear pants whose hems feel on their ankles.

6.      They don’t like collars

 Kids may not like dresses with collars, especially if they touch their necks. 

7.      They show their displeasure with Tags, Buttons, Snaps, Zippers, and Ties, etc.

8.      They don’t want to wear Hats, Caps, Mittens, and Gloves, etc.

How does your Child express problems with clothing?

It’s essential to find out what particular types of clothes your child does not like to wear. However, it may not be easier to identify the exact tactile sensitivity clothing issue in the beginning. You can stay alert for the following signs and behavioral indicators.

  • Loss of self-control every morning when it’s time to dress up.
  • Complains of itching or tickling sensation on wearing certain fabrics.
  • Expressed wish to remove dresses of a particular material, design, style, or type.
  • The child is trying to tear or play with clothes the child is uncomfortable in.
  • Anxiety and mood-swings before changing dresses.
  • The child shows reluctance to dress-up or is developing the habit of staying naked.
  • Refusal to wear winter or summer clothes because of disliking of their fabrics and type regardless of the weather.

How to Resolve Tactile Sensitivity Issues with Clothing for Children?

There are three ways of dealing with clothing-related tactile sensitivity issues. Finding alternative clothing is the most important. Changes in parental habits support alternative clothing.

Finally, therapeutic efforts will ensure the resolution of tactile sensitivity in your child. The overall strategy is one of retreat, adjustment, resolution.

Initially, accepting the tactile sensitivity and the exact reasons for it is essential. Changing the clothes, packing the unwanted ones, and buying new ones will create some breathing space for you.

After that, everyday techniques and operational methods can eliminate tactile sensitivity to make your child receptive to all clothes varieties

Let’s look in greater detail.

Sensory-friendly Clothing for Tactile Sensitive Child

The simplest way is to switch to alternative sensory-friendly clothes. Pack the clothes that are causing pain and irritation to your little one and replace them with a sensory-friendly wardrobe! Here’s what you can do.

1.  Understand your Child’s Preference – Loose Clothes or Tight Clothes? 

If you can find your child’s general preference, loose or tight, it’s a third of the job done. Believe me! You’ll need to find this out by observation and empathy.

1.  Understand your Child’s Preference - Loose Clothes or Tight Clothes? 

This should be your first step. After this, you can move towards abandoning those loose or tight clothes that your child dislikes. Replace them by purchasing new ones.

2.  Soft Fabrics work Best.

Nothing works better than soft fabrics in comforting the child’s sensitive skin. Cotton tops the list of such materials. You may choose dresses that may not be 100% cotton, but please ensure no synthetic mixing with cotton.

Sometimes fabrics soften after multiple washes. You can buy some secondhand clothes if  made of sensory-friendly fabrics like cotton and soft-wool.

3.  Natural Fabrics means 0% Synthetic.

Let nature nurture your child every step! Natural fabrics are the best friends of the child’s sensitive skin. Soft wool, soft bamboo, and linen are your best options besides cotton.

Your preference should be for 100% natural fabric clothes. If that’s not available, choose the fabrics that are 0% synthetic. Say absolutely no to rough, scratchy, or coarse fabrics, even if they are natural!

4.  Avoid Clothes with Tags and Seams

Tags and seams are the two most common irritants for tactile, sensitive kids. Remove the tags. You can also choose to buy tagless clothes.

Similarly, seamless shorts, undergarments, and socks will make life more enjoyable for your child.

5.  Pants and Shorts with Elastic Waistbands

Pants and shorts that come with elastic waistbands instead of fasteners can be beneficial. The elastic should neither be tight nor loose. Sometimes, kids fear the elastic itself, so choose clothes where the elastic band is invisible.

6.  Go for Clothes with Easy Fasteners

Your child may lack the motor skills for proper fastening. Improper fastening or trouble in re-fastening is a common cause of trouble. Do away with clothes with buttons and zippers.

Drawstrings distribute pressure and are easier to understand for kids. Similarly, children find Velcro fastening more acceptable.

7.  Adopt the Layering Approach

Adopting the layering approach to child clothing can ensure a calm day for your child.

  • The most important layer is the bottom layer. It contacts the skin directly. That’s undergarments. Make sure that the undergarments fabric is soft and the elastic is not tight. The child should feel comfortable moving with the underwear.
  • The middle layer should be the one that the child likes. If your child has expressed displeasure with some particular dresses and clothing types, avoid them.
  • The top layer is easily removable and re-worn by the child. Try to avoid fasteners here. Easy-fit, uncomplicated fastening, and heavy compression materials are the key here.   

8.  Time to Abandon Clothes that Bunch-up

8.  Time to Abandon Clothes that Bunch-up

Tactile, sensitive children have a tough time with fabrics and clothing that bunches-up. Say no to shorts with netting. Your child will be more accepting towards sleeves, hems, and socks that don’t recline, slip, or bunch. 

9.  Avoid Plastic, Rubber, Metal, and Accessories

Simply avoid clothes that have plastic, rubber, or metal attachments. Plastic and rubber may carry chemicals that irritate the skin even when they are on the outside.

Remember, your child will sweat while playing, and that’s an invitation for harmful chemicals to react with the skin. Metal attachments may prick while moving, sitting, or during wearing and removing the dress.

Avoid accessories. Tactile, sensitive children indeed dislike wearing accessories. 

10.  Tactile Sensitive Children don’t like Embroidery.

Buy plain clothes. Pack the ones that have embroidery designs. Embroidery threads are usually not as soft as the fabric. Either the threads or the design itself may cause itching and irritation.

11. Cozy Sleepwear 

Sound sleep goes a long way in ensuring the healthy development of your child’s mind and body. Wrong sleepwear not only disturbs sleep but also makes your child lazy and irritated during the day. If your child is tactile-sensitive, improper sleepwear will multiply the problems.

To avoid this, try loose pajamas made of cotton for summers. For winters, opt for sealed pajamas as they conserve body heat. Heavy blankets work well for kids with extra-sensitive skin.

12.  Underwear that’s Easy on Skin

While other clothing pieces can be a size large or small, that can’t be the case with underwear. They are in direct contact with the tactile-sensitive skin of your child. They have to fit precisely and efficiently.

Make sure that the underwear is seamless, tagless, and made of soft materials. Children find underwear with hidden and covered waistbands comfortable.

Adopt New Parental Habits

Sensory-friendly clothing works best when parents make amendments to their attitudes towards their children’s clothing. Your kids are not machines. Don’t seek to dress them, expecting better behavior.

Adopt New Parental Habits

They are very sensitive. Your extended human touch will help them understand their clothing, body, senses, and the world around them better.

Try to:

1. Make extra efforts to understand your child!

Not all kids are equally expressive of their problems with clothing. Some of them are loud in their protests, while others choose to bear the pain silently.

You wouldn’t want your child to tolerate pain and discomfort in neglect while it causes barriers in their development. Try to catch the signs. Take notes.

Be patient to listen and understand their slightest complaints. They may open-up and start expressing themselves clearly. This way, they will help you identify the exact problems to take action.

2. Never force your child to wear any particular clothes!

If your child is expressing reluctance in wearing particular fabrics, dresses, or clothing types, give them options. Never force them to wear clothes they don’t like. It will not only worsen tactile sensitivity but will also break the trust between you and your child.

Try to study the dislikes to figure out what the child likes. Keep noting. Use the method of elimination to strike out the clothes your child is not comfortable with.

3. Take your child shopping!

Sometimes children develop an intrinsic liking for the fabrics, clothing types, textures, and styles they find comfort in.

They are more likely to express that in a shopping mall than in the home. Let them select! Keep asking them what they want to buy. Respect their choices.

Pick up a few extra clothes because a child’s tactile sensitivity is fluctuating. They will feel pampered. Once they learn deep in their heart that you care for them, they will also start co-operating more.

4. Wait for your child to demand season-specific clothes!

Season change time and extreme weather can be a nightmare for mothers with tactile, sensitive children. Your child may want to continue with fall clothes even when it has got cold. Similarly, it may take longer than usual to pack the spring dresses and take out the summer ones.

In such cases, do not push your child. Instead, wait for your child to ask for the coat or the sweatshirt. Let your child throw the full sleeves and demand a T-shirt.

Everyday Techniques and Operational Therapy Methods

There’s much that Operational Therapy can do to eliminate tactile sensitivity in kids. These exercises and measures require consultation with a pediatrician who has an Operational Therapy certificate. Without going into the details, let’s look at these additional options.

1. Wilbarger Brush Protocol or Brushing

It involves brushing the child’s skin throughout the body with a specific brush. It’s used to reduce the sensitivity of the skin.

2. Create a Sensory Diet Plan

Often, the tactile sensitivity issues come with other sensory issues as well. A sensory diet plan allows balancing of the sensory system by satisfying the child’s sensory needs. When the diet meets the sensory needs, the child becomes more accepting of varieties of disliked clothes.

3. Expose your child to different textures

These can be different textures of toys, food, sofa covers, and bedsheets, etc. These become different routes through which the tactile system develops strength against sensitivity.

4. Use pressure on the tactile system to make the child feel comfortable.

Sometimes, kids that are opposed to particular types of clothes feel comfortable with hugs. Squeeze their hands and forearms, or exert downward pressure on the child’s shoulders with your hands.

4. Use pressure on the tactile system to make the child feel comfortable.

Replacing the disliked clothes with the ones your child likes gives you the time to understand the sensory issues. Changing a few clothing-related parental habits complements finding the right clothes. Everyday techniques and the Operational Therapeutic measures are the final nails in the coffin for tactile sensitivity.


Sensitivity to particular fabrics, designs, tags, seams, buttons, and clothing types is common in children. Even though tactile sensitivity is also a side-effect of a much more severe condition, it is often not traceable to a particular diagnosis.

Hypersensitivity is more common, and soft-natural fabric clothing is the best way out. It’s essential to observe the child, catch the signals, and discover the exact clothing sensitivity issues.

Removing the clothes that cause pain, irritation, itching, or unease with clothes the child loves to wear is the urgent step. Ultimately, it’s about slowly diversifying the clothing options in small steps and using therapy methods to normalize sensitivity.

Clothing has far-reaching consequences on your child’s development. Uncomfortable clothing can disturb the patterns of growth of the child’s emotional and intellectual world.

Sensory-friendly clothing plays a huge part in ensuring painless, peaceful, and enjoyable days for your child. Use this comprehensive list and empathize with seeing your child grow into a shining personality and a caring human being, wishing you proud motherhood in advance! All the best!

The Child Psychology Of Clothing And Dealing With Tactile Sensitivity In Children

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