Tickling can be a fun and gentle way to strengthen relationships and form neural pathways as baby learns to anticipate, to communicate and participate in a game. Baby is empowered when they signal ‘more’ or ‘stop’ and their whānau listen to them.

Why do it?

  • Gentle tickling can be a fun game with someone baby knows and trusts, and is great for strengthening their relationship and baby’s confidence.
  • It won’t take many repetitions before baby knows what’s coming and starts giggling or wriggling before the tickle happens. This tells you they’ve made a pathway of connections in their brain for this game.
  • If baby can anticipate, baby can participate.

How to do it

  • Ask baby if they’d like a game. If baby has just eaten, wait for a little while so it can settle.
  • Sit with baby comfy on your lap, and with one of their hands palm-up in your hand.
  • Gently make circles in their palm as you say, ‘Round and round the garden, like a teddy bear. One step…two steps…’ (‘step’ your fingers towards baby’s underarm or chin, ‘And tickle you under there!’ (Tickling baby in one of the spots your fingers ‘stepped’ to.)
  • Repeat until one of you has had enough.
  • Be prepared to change the game or stop if baby shows they don’t like it or is over it.
  • Remember to keep the tickling gentle.

Using more te reo Māori

Te reo Māori English
To tickle, amuse
Enjoyable, fun
To play together
Kia ngāwari Be gentle
Homai ōu ringaringa Give me your hands
Huakina tō ringa Open your hand
Huri huri haere Around and around
Teddy bear
Kotahi te hīkoi One step
E rua ngā hīkoi Two steps
Whakangaoko ki raro nei! Tickle under here!
Kia āta haere Go slow
He aha hei tākaro māu, e te tau?
What would you like to play with, my darling?
He kēmu anō māu? Do you want another game?
Ka nui tēnā, e te tau That's enough, my darling
He pai ki ā koe tēnei kēmu? Do you like this game?
Kei te hiamoe koe? Are you tired?