Do Kids See With Their Hands?

I can’t remember the first person that said these words to me, but as a primary educator, they’re words that I’ve often contemplated and repeated: “Look with your eyes, not with your hands!” Parents and teachers of young students are sure to be able to relate to this saying. How often do we ask kids to look at something and they go up to touch it? How often do we ask for them to talk about something, and again, they go up to touch it? This may be one of my biggest pet peeves. I’m not sure why it bothers me so much, but I constantly find myself breathing deeply through the many times that this happens, and I then having to ask a child to go and sit down. Quite unexpectedly yesterday though, I gained a new perspective. 

This week, we’ve been working on a collaborative art project. After a couple of days of painting together, my teaching partner, Paula, pulled the class together to have a look at what we made, and reflect on some possible next steps. 

I was on duty during this reflection time, so I didn’t get to hear the conversation live, but I listened back to it later that day. And it was as I was watching the video recordings that I began to wonder …

  • Do some kids need the sensory experience that comes from touching an item in order to communicate about it?
  • Could the physical touch stimulate something in their brain that helps with the formulation of ideas?

While the “touching” has always bothered me, I started to wonder, is it really possible to avoid this? Maybe, as much as I want the control that comes from a quick exchange of ideas with no movement in between, some kids need more than that. So when it comes to this large group sharing, is it about what works for me, or what works for them? I think that I’m going to need to get comfortable with taking some more deep breaths. Maybe kids really do see with their hands.


5 thoughts on “Do Kids See With Their Hands?

  1. We have a running line in our house, that came from one of Mr 14’s good friends. If you want to touch something, you don’t say « can I see that? » , you have to be truthful and say « can I see that with my hands? » . Most of the time, that’s what we want .

    • Mind you, I also wonder if the line between touching and feeling is so small for many Kindergarteners that it’s almost hard to articulate that what they really want is to “see with their hands.” Do they know this? Is there really any other kind of “seeing” for them? Hmmm … I’m still trying to figure this one out. Maybe this is something that we need to explicitly teach them. You’re making me think even more here, Lisa!


      • The first time I heard Mr 14 say – oh, did you mean you want to see it with your hands? I thought he was bring a sarcastic teenager. But then he explained that this is how one of his friends operates. Really, most of the time, we want to see it with our hands. Kinders totally want that multisense experience. They probably want to see it with their tongues and noses, too, realistically.

        • Excellent point, Lisa! Again, it makes me think more of their sensory needs. When many JKs start school, they love to put things in their mouth. This is why we don’t start Perler Beads until a little later in the year, as kids are still “tasting” thing. In certain classes or for certain kids, Perler Beads may never be a good option because the kids remain at this sensory stage. This stops at different times, depending on each child. Then we get more into just touching items. It’s why mud play is so exciting for kids of this age. As kids get older, most do not need this same sensory experience, but some do. I think your son identified this in his friend. This whole topic is a good reminder for me that we always need to remember about the developmental levels of our children. Thanks for that reminder!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *