Transection of a sensory nerve in adults results in profound abnormalities in sensory perception, even if the severed nerve is surgically repaired to facilitate accurate nerve regeneration. In marked contrast, fewer perceptual errors follow nerve transection and surgical repair in children. The basis for this superior recovery in children was unknown. Here we show that there is little or no topographic order in the median nerve to the hand after median nerve section and surgical repair in immature macaque monkeys. Remarkably, however, in the same animals the representation of the reinnervated hand in primary somatosensory cortex (area 3b) is quite orderly. This indicates that there are mechanisms in the developing brain that can create cortical topography, despite disordered sensory inputs. Presumably the superior recovery of perceptual abilities after peripheral nerve transection in children depends on this restoration of somatotopy in the central sensory maps.