OBJECTIVE. The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of optimal seated positioning in individually fitted furniture versus suboptimal seated positioning in standard classroom furniture on typical 6- and 7-year-old children’s object manipulation skills as measured by the In-hand Manipulation Test (IMT).
METHOD. An experimental research design was used to compare IMT performance of two groups of 20 children. One group was positioned in standard, too-large classroom furniture that did not support an optimal seated position, and one group was positioned optimally in furniture fitted to each child for tabletop activities, which allowed for hip flexion to 90°, and foot placement on the floor, and the table to be at flexed elbow height.
RESULTS. Independent groups’ t tests indicated that children who were optimally positioned performed significantly better (t = −2.77, df = 38, p < .01) than children who were tested in the too-large standard classroom furniture. The difference between groups was greater on the more difficult object manipulation items (t = −3.29, df = 38, p = .001) than on the easier items (t = −1.38, df = 38, p = .08). Age and gender may have differentially affected the results.
CONCLUSION. The study’s results suggest that the fit of furniture relative to the child’s size may have a significant impact on a young, typical child’s object manipulation skills. Complex hand skills, such as those involving in-hand manipulation with stabilization, appear to be more affected by the quality of the child’s seated position than are simpler, more well-established skills. Findings suggest that test administrators should strive to test young children in the most optimal seated position possible, particularly when the test involves complex hand skills. Further study is needed to assess the impact of the fit of furniture on hand skills in children with disabilities and on children’s performance of other tasks.