Fitting Handled Objects Into Apertures by 17- to 36-Month-Old Children: The Dynamics of Spatial Coordination

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Handled artifacts are ubiquitous in human technology, but how young children engage in spatially coordinated behaviors with these artifacts is not well understood. To address this issue, children (N = 30) from 17–36 months were studied with motion tracking technology as they fit the distal segment of a handled artifact into a slot. The handle was orthogonal to the distal segment. Results revealed developmental differences in prospective control tied to the artifact’s spatial structure. Although all children accomplished fitting, younger children first oriented the handle and then the distal segment (and only after the distal segment contacted the slot), whereas children by 3 years of age oriented the handle and distal segment simultaneously in different spatial planes, prior to the distal segment contacting the slot. Choosing an effective grip posture proved difficult for all children. Results are discussed in terms of how children begin to relate their actions to the 3-dimensional spatial structure of handled objects and the prospective control of object movement in multiple spatial planes.

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