Five to Thrive: Cuddle

This page is all about connecting and engaging. This building block is “cuddle” for babies and children. It becomes “engage” for young people and adults.


Touch is your baby’s first sense to develop, as a feeling, before they develop understanding. Touch is a powerful way to connect with and comfort your baby, and close physical contact helps to calm them.

Your baby will need gentle, safe, touch as their skin is delicate and new. Skin to skin is best. For more information see our baby massage page. 

happy baby lying on tummy

Some examples of how you can do this with your baby are:

  • Stroke 
  • Pat 
  • Caress 
  • Massage 
  • Tickle 
  • Hold them
  • Rock them
  • Brush their hair
  • Make physical contact while playing with them and caring for them 

Your baby will soon show you their preferences by the way they react to touch.

Feel confident to cuddle as much as you like, no matter what anyone else says! We cannot say enough times that it is impossible to ‘spoil’ a baby by meeting their needs and cuddling is a basic need.

Nursery rhymes that involve touch

This little piggy went to market

This little piggy went to market,
This little piggy stayed at home,
This little piggy had roast beef,
And this little piggy had none,
And this little piggy went wee, wee, wee,
All the way home.

Round and round the garden

Round and round the garden like a teddy bear,
One step, two steps, 
Tickle you under there.

Toddler and preschooler

Your toddler or preschool child can become distressed and overwhelmed. You will need to allow them time to calm down, then you can address boundaries. See our page on supporting positive behaviour

They may need you to be close, cuddling or holding them, or they may want to be alone. 

Your child's brain works well when they have your attention. So, try to have mealtimes together with no television or electronic devices.  

Primary aged and older

For your primary-aged child, try to get down to their level when speaking with them. This will help you know if your child wants a cuddle or not.

As children mature, they are less likely to want a cuddle, but they will engage. When it comes to engaging with your teenager, you may need to work at this.

Cuddle daily checklist

Have you: 

  • Cuddled your child throughout the day?
  • Praised your child?
  • Stopped what you were doing when your child wanted a cuddle?
  • Understood when your child did not want a cuddle?
  • Turned a household job into a game?
  • Used gentle touch to soothe?
five to thrive tower of blocks showing cuddle

This page was co-produced in partnership with KCA

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Last updated on 14 February 2024