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 so 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
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. Lastly, if your baby can hold the baby bottle to feed themselves, that would give you a quick break as well. Take a look at our own designed 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 your 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!
At Finturely, we focus on haptic perception. But we break it down to two easy chunks
Our haptic toys are selected for haptic perception development. We try to pack in as many exploratory procedures into a single toy as possible. Whether it's contour following in larger curved shapes, lateral motion in multi-material toys and textured toys, enclosure in small grip-able toys, and pressure in plush animal toys, Finturely has you covered. This way, you don't have to worry about your baby not getting their reflexes stimulated.
Grip Strength Training
Accelerate haptic perception development by strengthening your baby's fingers. Graduating to an 8oz bottle could be heavy and daunting! If you remember from earlier, different object properties trigger different grasping. For grip strength, you will want hard, angular, and granular toys. Your baby may drop the toy several times, but their grasping reflexes also allow them to hold these toys much tighter. This type of pulsing grip is perfect for strengthening those finger muscles. It is observed and hypothesized that babies having this pulsing (on and off) grip for angular objects is due to the objects having additional stimuli and that the constant re-gripping of the object is the baby's attempt to gather more data (Striano & Bushnell, 2005). In other words, it's a type of haptic exploratory procedures for babies!
*Finturely is working hard to release our toy collections. In the meantime, check out our own designed Bottles Grabbies!