The Beginnings of Tool Use by Infants and Toddlers

Michael E. McCarty, Rachel K. Clifton, Roberta R. Collard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

139 Scopus citations


Children (aged 9, 14, 19, and 24 months) were encouraged to use tools to achieve a demonstrated goal. Each tool was most efficiently applied when held by the handle with the thumb toward the head of the tool in a radial grip. The tools were presented at midline and oriented to the left and right on alternating trials, so the children who managed to grasp a tool in both orientations with the radial grip demonstrated planning of actions in advance. The tools included a spoon, hairbrush, toy hammer, and magnet; the goals were to feed one's self, feed another, brush one's hair, brush another's hair, hit pegs, and retrieve metal objects. Children were found to use more radial grips with the self-directed tools (i.e., hairbrush-to-self and spoon-to-self), indicating that they could plan their actions better when directed toward the self than toward an external goal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-256
Number of pages24
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001


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