What is Haptic Perception?
Did you know?
One of the hallmarks of human behavior, is the desire to explore, examine and manipulate objects with our hands for the mere sake of exploration (Kellog & Kellog, 1933; Vauclair, 1984).
In fact, we utilize haptic perception everyday. Whether it's following the detailed contours of a wooden table, the lateral motion of your hand through the soft stubble texture of an area rug, the enclosure of your hand over a coffee mug handle, or even the squeeze of a baby's diaper to see if it needs to be changed, your sense of touch is just as common as your vision.
Simply, haptic perception is how we see with our hands, so it's not surprising that this important ability starts developing early on in life. As your baby develops their haptic perception, their hands will gain more dexterity from the ulna to the radius bone (or from pinky to thumb).
Haptic perception is different in adults than in newborns. As adults, we use active touch to observe, manipulate, or use an object (Streri, Lhote & Dutilleul, 2000). Newborns, however, are only limited to grasping reflexes, such as the palmer grasp reflex. This reflex can lend poor and rigid gripping and thus their haptic perception is typically limited to passive touch.
How do you develop haptic perception in babies?
Unlike vision, haptic perception needs to be worked on to be developed. So how do you get from passive touch to active touch when limited to basic grasping reflexes? The answer is by always introducing new sensory mediums. In other words, to continue to give your baby new toys to grasp.
The goal is to find an object or toy that has properties that stimulate their hand to trigger grasping reflexes in different ways. For example, soft and smooth toys are gripped longer in static grips; while hard and angular toys are gripped for shorter times, but with higher strengths (Rochat, 1987).
Once their reflexes kick in, exploratory procedures can happen just like ours, but as you can imagine, it's much more limited. This is why haptic habitation (practicing/ repetition) with different and new toys is key to developing your baby's haptic perception. So practice, practice, practice!
Why do you want to develop your baby's haptic perception early on?
For starters, children with poor haptic perception can lead to having trouble with handwriting, handwriting speed and legibility (Yu, Hinojosa, Howe & Voelbel, 2011). This can hinder their learning and overall education.
Haptic perception is the essential base of fine motor skills, so it should be emphasized with high importance. Just as we value our vision, haptic perception is just as vital, we just need to remember to give our children the tools (or toys!) to succeed. It also doesn't stop there.
Early development in haptics for your baby can also help you, as the parent, a whole lot as well. Whether it's self feeding, self dressing, or learning baby sign language, the more empowered your baby is, the less tantrums you will witness.
Early development in haptics for your baby can also help you, as the parent, a whole lot as well
Here are 2 Reasons:
Honing the pincer grip is an amazing thing. Having your baby spend their lunch break trying to pick up cheerios or some blueberries is not too effective when you have a hungry baby. Make sure haptic habitation is done beforehand and let lunch time be used for eating.
Same goes for holding a spoon or fork. It takes a lot of practice for babies to get their hands around a utensil and then comfortable enough to wield it through some Mac N' Cheese.
To integrate haptic perception with bottle feeding, take a look at our flagship product, Bottle Grabbies, that accessorizes your baby bottle to have attachable handles to aid them in holding the baby bottle. It also doubles as a toy, so they can work on their haptic exploratory procedures while they drink their milk!
Communication - Baby Sign Language
Parenting can be hard and stressful. Being in tune with your baby is probably an underrated attribute a parent can have, but when you're vibing with your baby, you reduce baby stress and ultimately, the stress on yourself as well. This all begins with communication and being able to understand what your baby's needs.
Baby signing (baby sign language/ ASL) is just another tool for your baby to show you what they need at an early age. Most baby signs require a coordination of all ten fingers and movement of their hands, so it's important that haptic exploration is embedded early on.
The more articulation and strength your baby's fingers has, the more signs they can perform to communicate what they need. This means less guessing and less crying. Simple signs such as, "more", "all done", "please" and "wait" can make a worlds difference, especially if your baby is not talking yet.
Check out the Top Ten Baby Signs to get a head start. Empower your baby with early communication and make your life easier today!
Want to learn more? Click here to read about "How to Teach Your Baby Sign Language"