What is in-hand manipulation, anyway?
In-hand manipulation is the ability to manipulate objects in the fingers and hand or adjust an object within the hand after grasping it.
There are three types of in-hand manipulation:
1) Translation – the ability to move an object from the fingers to the palm or from the palm to the fingers. An example of this would be picking up a penny and moving it into the palm of the hand, and then manipulating it back to the thumb and fingers to put it in a bank. This skill starts to develop between the ages of 1.5 to 2.5 years old.
2) Rotation – the ability to rotate or turn an object in the pad of the fingers. Simple rotation could be turning a bead so you can put something through the hole. More complex rotation might be making “meatballs” with playdough within one hand using the thumb and fingers. (This is one is always a challenge for my kids!)
3) Shift – the thumb and fingers manipulate an object in a linear movement after it’s been grasped. Think of picking up a pencil near the eraser and then “shifting” or “walking” the fingers up toward the point. (developing between 4 to 5 years)
What to Look For:
When you’re looking at a child’s in-hand manipulation skills, it’s important to note their speed and accuracy. I find that a lot of my kids drop things or “stumble” through in-hand manipulation tasks. Their speed and accuracy improve with natural development, but lots of fine motor and manipulation activities are always helpful in pushing these skills along!
Kids who still haven’t developed in-hand manipulation often use compensatory strategies to accomplish the task in front of them. For instance, if they are trying to manipulate a peg into a pegboard, but it’s upside down, they may touch it to their chest to turn it. This is because they don’t have the higher-level manipulation skills to turn it within their hand.
Other compensatory strategies to look for:
- dropping the pegs or coins to pick them up in a different way
- using their other hand to turn the object
- picking up one object at a time
How do you know if they are making progress?
I like to use progress monitoring sheets to keep track of my kids’ manipulation skills. These allow me to easily check off what activity I used, what goal I targeted, AND how my student did!
Progress monitoring and keeping data are important ways to measure how and if your students are making progress.
This printable Manipulation Activity Packet includes a simple tracking sheet that allows you to keep data while staying focused on your child and the exciting fine motor challenge at hand.