When my daughter Lottie was a toddler, the first sign that made me suspect she may be left handed was when we were in the garden playing football. She consistently kicked the ball back to me with her left foot, ignoring her right altogether. A few weeks later, we were baking a cake when she grabbed the wooden spoon with her left hand and stirred the mixture anticlockwise, another sure sign of left hand dominance.
Now that she’s started school, she’s a confirmed ‘lefty’, often writing whole words and sentences backwards or working her way from the back of an exercise book to the front. So, if – like me – you have a left handed child, how can you help them navigate through a right-handed world? Read our tips and ideas below and browse our left handed resource pack for more information.
Why Are Children Left Handed?
Around 10% of the world’s population is left handed and scientists are still not exactly sure why. Theories include the following:
- Genetics may have a part to play. A single gene passed from parent to child may have an influence on which hand will dominate. Other research suggests that lots of different genes come together to have an effect on whether your child is right or left handed.
- It could be that testosterone has a part to play; slightly more boys are left handed compared to girls.
- Some researchers suggest that fetal development and environmental factors in the womb, for example, exposure to hormones, may have an influence on left or right hand dominance.
- Injury may force people who would naturally be right-handed to use their left hand to adjust.
- It could be that your child is taking their model from a parent or carer who is left handed.
Early Signs Your Child Might Be Left Handed
Most children will show a preference for using their left hand by the time they are three-years-old, although every child is different and for some, it may be as late as five or six. Here are some of the signs to look out for when determining hand dominance in your child:
- Holding a spoon in their left hand. Your child may grab utensils using their left hand and use them to eat while using their less dominant right hand to steady the bowl or plate. If you are baking or pretend cooking, try to notice in which direction your child stirs their mixture in a bowl; if it’s clockwise, they’re more likely to be right-handed and if it’s anticlockwise they’re more likely to favour their left.
- For younger children, when you hand them a toy, notice which hand they reach out for it with. Likewise, roll a ball to them and see which hand they use to stop it – both are indicators of left or right-hand dominance.
- As I noticed with Lottie, if your child kicks a ball with their left foot, it’s more likely that they prefer to use their left hand over their right. Left handed children also tend to be more balanced when standing on their left leg.
- Note which hand they use a crayon or pencil with – again an indicator of left hand preference.
- Another indicator is scissors. If your little one is trying to use scissors with his or her left hand and getting frustrated that they don’t work, it may be time to switch to a left handed pair. Try Twinkl’s Pencil Control and Scissor Skills Resource Pack to practise these essential skills.
Tips And Activities To Help Your Left-Hander
I still remember the story my grandma told me about her left handed school friend who was made to write with her right hand. Obviously, if your child is left handed encourage and support him or her, rather than seek to influence their hand dominance. Here’s how:
- If they’re school-aged, ask your child’s teacher if they can sit on the left hand side of a two-seater desk. This allows them to have plenty of room to move their left hand and arm when writing; avoiding a struggle for space in the middle, if the person sat next to them is right-handed.
- Provide them with equipment designed for left-handers, such as left handed scissors (these have yellow and green handles in standard packs of scissors used in schools) and specially designed pens, which allow smooth ink flow when used in the left hand. A moulded or triangular pencil grip can often help them to position a pencil in a comfortable position when starting to write. Take some time to practise their fine motor skills and pencil control.
- Putting a dot at the start of the line can often help when left handed children begin to learn to write, as this indicates which side of the page they should start writing on. This is because their natural instinct is to write from right to left, instead of the other way around.
- If you’re teaching a left handed child to do something, such as tie their shoelaces or play a musical instrument, and you are right handed, it is better to sit opposite them rather than next to them, so that they can copy a ‘mirror image’ of what you’re doing. For example, this How to Sign the British Alphabet Handout is perfect for left-handers as it creates a mirror image.
If your child is left handed, they are in excellent company. History shows us that many left-handers have excelled in the fields of politics, science, the arts and sports. Research even suggests that being left handed in sports with time pressures, such as baseball, cricket and table tennis, can be an advantage as left handed moves can be unfamiliar to right handed opponents, making it harder for them to predict how their adversary will respond. Famous left-handers include Leonardo Da Vinci, Winston Churchill and Albert Einstein.
Don’t forget to keep checking our Twinkl Parents’ Hub for more ideas and inspiration on anything parent-related.
With love from the Twinkl Parents’ Team 🙂
This article was originally posted on the Twinkl Education Blog by Isobel Hood.