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Out of the Toolbox: Toddlers Differentiate Wobbly and Wooden Handrails


  • This manuscript is based in part on a Master's thesis submitted to New York University by Sharon A. Lobo in partial fulfillment of the MA requirements. This research was supported in part by a 2001–2002 postdoctoral research fellowship from the American Association of University Women to Sarah E. Berger and by National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Grant HD33486 to Karen E. Adolph. Portions of this research were presented at the International Conference on Infant Studies, Chicago, Illinois, May 2004, and the meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Tampa, FL, April 2003.

  • We gratefully acknowledge the members of the New York University Action Lab for their assistance with data collections, Catherine Tamis-LeMonda for her valuable feedback, and all of the babies and caregivers who participated in this research.

concerning this article should be addressed to Sarah E. Berger, Department of Psychology, The College of Staten Island, The City University of New York, 2800 Victory Boulevard, 4S-108, Staten Island, NY 10314. Electronic mail may be sent to


This study examined whether 16-month-old walking infants take the material composition of a handrail into account when assessing its effectiveness as a tool to augment balance. Infants were encouraged to cross from one platform to another via bridges of various widths (10, 20, 40 cm) with either a “wobbly” (foam or latex) or a wooden handrail available for assistance. Infants attempted to walk over wider bridges more often than narrow ones, and attempts were more frequent when the sturdy wooden handrail was available. Infants tailored their exploratory behaviors, bridge-crossing strategies, and handrail-use strategies to the material properties of the rail.