Objective. The purpose of this study was to look at the development of in-hand translation skills in young children; that is, the child’s ability to move a small object from the fingers into the palm and from the palm to the fingers. Three questions were asked: (a) Do boys’ and girls’ performance differ significantly? (b) Does the performance of the children improve with age? and (c) Can periods of rapid improvement with age be seen on the tasks presented?
Method. In-hand manipulation translation was measured with a pegboard task for 154 right-handed children between 3-0 years and 6-11 years of age and 13 adults. Participants were videotaped as they picked up two to five pegs, one at a time; stored them in the hand; and moved the pegs out of storage to place them in the pegboard. The number of pegs handled in each trial as well as the methods used to move the peg to and from the palm were recorded.
Results. Boys and girls did not show significant differences in their performance, but when slight differences did occur ,they favored the girls. Age was found to be a significant factor in both the number of pegs handled and the method used in handling them. The older children tended to place more pegs successfully and were more likely to use the methods most commonly used by the adults. A major finding was the marked difference in how the children solved the problem of moving the peg in and out of the palm compared with the adults. The adults used gravity to assist the movement of the peg; the children tended to use methods that allowed them to maintain contact with the peg throughout the movement.
Conclusion. In-hand manipulation translation skills appear to have a long developmental course. Children are closer to adults in their ability to perform the task than in the methods that they use. This study shows the importance observing how children perform tasks, not just whether they complete the tasks. Differences in the methods used help to determine efficiency. Observation of these skills in children may expand a therapist’s understanding of children’s fine motor abilities.