Knowing How to Fold ‘em: Paper Folding Across Early Childhood

in Journal of Motor Learning and Development
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  • 1 University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • | 2 University of California
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Folding paper is a seemingly simple act that requires planning, bimanual coordination, and manual strength and control to produce specific forces. Although paper folding has been used as an assessment tool and as a way to promote spatial skills, this study represents the first attempt to document when paper folding emerges across early childhood. Seventy-seven children (ages 18 months to 7 years) and an adult reference group (24 college-aged adults) completed three pre-specified folds on a single piece of paper. Dependent variables included whether children attempted each fold and, if so, the accuracy of each fold. Grip strength, pinch strength, and developmental level were examined as potential correlates of paper folding. The results demonstrated that paper folding emerges as early as 27 months of age but becomes more accurate with age. At least 50% of children between 4 and 5.5 years of age completed folds. Additionally, children with more age-appropriate problem-solving skills attempted more folds, independent of age. These findings provide a descriptive framework for the ages at which paper folding emerges and suggest that paper-folding interventions could be implemented at even earlier ages than what previously has been examined.

Travers is with the Occupational Therapy Program, Dept. of Kinesiology, and the Waisman Center, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, WI. Kirkorian and Choi are with the Dept. of Human Development and Family Studies, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, WI. Jiang, Rosengren, Pavalko, and Jobin are with the Dept. of Psychology, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, WI. Choi is also with Rutgers University-Newark, Newark, NJ.

Address author correspondence to Brittany G. Travers at

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