In the first description of the senses given by Rudolf Steiner, he did not include the sense of touch: ” This sense does not exist as such, because there are several senses that could be named as senses of touch. Touch also takes place when we search for an object with our eyes. When we sniff we are touching with our sense of smell and even with the sense of warmth the sense of touch is involved. From this we must learn to understand that touching is not something confined to the sense of touch alone”
” The sense of touch conveys pressure, opposition, hardness, softness. In this process of pressure we do not experience the pressing body (object) but rather the struggle that we have with this object. In other words, if I touch a piece of wood or metal, what I am aware of is nothing else than the resistance my skin experiences in pressing against these hard surfaces.” Thus, one thing is the experience of the attributes of the object itself and, in the other hand, the experience of the object upon ourselves. We experience the touching but not what is touched. And more, a “touching” of liquid substances carries an experience of taste, a “touching” of temperature gives us an experience of warmth, etc.and we have this activity as an observing person.
Later, Steiner described:” What we experience in touching can always be found in the realm of the other three lower senses: life, movement, balance. An object that presses upon me, results in a change of position within my body and this is discerned in turns, through the sense of life, movement or balance”. So, here, we find the sense of touch as a kind of space in which we experience the three other senses, individually or in different combinations. In touching a piece of silk, is involved the perceived movement and the sensitive experience of the sense of life. A wealth of impressions are necessary in order to reach the conclusion “silk”. The sense of touch itself is simply the space in which this totality of experiences takes place.
Seven years later, Steiner allocated to the sense of touch a realm of his own: “It is the sense through which Man comes into a relationship with the world of objects in the most material manner. Through the sense of touch the human being comes up against the outer world, through his own’s skin”. Here the sense of touch is recognized as a sense in its own right but only if we can experience through it, not the world but the effects of the world through the outer surface of our skin. What we experience are the effects of the world upon us interweaving the experiences of our sense of life, movement and balance. We do not come to an experience of the perception when we touch, because other sense-impressions constantly overlap. This sense does not bring to us a view of the world, but only a dull experience of the limits and borders of our physical existence.
Newborns already have the capacity to touch. The sense of touch is an important helper in the process of coming down to earth and it guides the child from being connected to the cosmos to feeling at home in their own body. For young children, the spiritual world is a matter of fact and not a mental picture. The sense of touch is the bridge over which the I can become a “citizen of earth” while at the same time maintaining the full certainty of the presence of a spiritual world.
Touching has a two-fold aspect, connecting and separating. In the first way, whatever I touch also touches me, so through touching children can feel a loving connection to their environment. In the second way, touching tells a child something about himself, enhancing his own self. At the same time, they feel the separations or boundaries between themselves and other persons or objects.
Children become aware of their boundaries daily as they grow from babies sucking on their hands into toddlers bumping into things as they explore the house. They want to touch everything and it is painful for them if not allowed to do so. What children touch and what touches them is important. In the Waldorf Early Childhood program, toys are made of natural materials such as wool, cotton, wood and silk. It is also recommended to dress the child in natural fibers.