Measuring normal hand dexterity values in normal 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old children and their relationship with grip and pinch strength

J Hand Ther. 2003 Jan-Mar;16(1):22-8. doi: 10.1016/s0894-1130(03)80020-0.


After surgery for trauma or correction of congenital anomaly, hand function is difficult to evaluate in children because there are no reference norms on children 3 to 5 years old. The purpose of this study was to determine whether reproducible normative values for hand dexterity and grip and pinch strength could be obtained in young children using simple tests that could be administered quickly within the attention span of a 3- to 5-year-old. The Functional Dexterity Test (FDT), a pegboard test validated for adults and older children, seemed to meet our requirements for dexterity. The FDT was administered to a convenience sample of normal children in a prekindergarten school who were grouped according to age: 3-year-olds (n = 17), 4-year-olds (n = 24), and 5-year-olds (n = 22). Hand dominance was determined. The task was demonstrated by 1 of the 2 testers. The child was asked to turn the pegs over in the pegboard without using the free hand or balancing the peg against the chest. Both hands were tested. Grip and pinch strengths were measured in both hands in a consistent manner. All the children were tested with the arm at the side and the elbow at 90 degrees. A dynamometer was used for grip strength and a pinch meter was used to measure key (lateral) and tripod pinch strengths. Means and SDs were calculated for each age group, and the dependent values of dexterity, strength, and dominance were correlated. Dexterity and strength scores were significantly different by age group. A good FDT score in the dominant hand was predictive of a good score in the nondominant hand. Grip and pinch strength correlated poorly with functional dexterity. The normative values established in this study for children in the 3- to 5-year-old range can be referenced for disability estimates and establishing goals for children after surgery or hand injury.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology*
  • Hand / physiology*
  • Hand Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Hand Injuries / rehabilitation*
  • Hand Strength / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / rehabilitation*
  • Recovery of Function / physiology
  • Reference Values
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Time Factors