Are you a ‘leftie’ or ‘rightie’? Did you always favour one side more than the other or do you remember having to choose one?

The jury’s out for a consensus on when specifically hand dominance (using a preferred hand consistently) should happen for kids.

However, what the majority of experts agree on is that kids generally pick a ‘favourite’ side between the ages of 2 and 4, and that hand dominance should be established by the time they’re 5 years old.

The theory is that your scallywag figuring out a dominant hand before starting school will help their efficiency with school tasks such as writing and self-care (e.g. drinking from a water foundation or unwrapping their lunch independently).

How hand dominance develops

There are many theories out there on when and how hand dominance develops, including genetics (e.g. Mum and Dad being lefties or righties) and learning how to use both hands and arms together and separately.

Known as bilateral integration (using both sides of the body together) and crossing midline (being able to cross the centre of the body with the arms, legs or eyes), these skills continue to develop throughout early childhood and will help your little one to figure out which hand they favour.

How do I know if my child has established a dominant hand?

Generally speaking, you’ll know that little miss or mister has established a dominant (preferred) hand if you notice that they use a particular hand more frequently and it’s more skilled at doing tasks than the other.

Word to the wise: it’s important to go with the flow of whichever hand your pint-sized person relies on more – no matter whether they’re a rightie or a leftie!

What if my child seems to use both hands equally well?

While some of us are naturally ambidextrous (good at using both hands with a similar level of skill), it’s best to encourage junior to ‘pick’ one hand to primarily use for tasks.

This will help your youngster to develop the strength and dexterity in their chosen hand.

How do I know if my child is having difficulty with their hand dominance?

Your child might be having difficulty establishing a dominant (preferred) hand if they:

  • Alternate between using one side or the other for tasks such as drawing or using scissors
  • Regularly swap hands within an activity
  • Appear confused about which hand to use for different tasks

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Ways you can help your child with their hand dominance

Interestingly, helping little miss or mister to develop their bilateral integration (using both sides of the body together) and crossing midline (being able to cross the centre of the body with the arms, legs or eyes) skills has a domino effect of helping them to establish a dominant (preferred) hand.

We’ve put together some fun activities that promote these crucial foundation skills below. Enjoy!

Activities that help with bilateral integration

  • Threading or lacing beads onto string
  • Playing with playdough using rolling pins and cutters
  • Using stencils on paper, with one hand holding the stencil while the other traces
  • Screwing lids on and off bottles or jars

Activities that help with crossing midline

  • Playing ‘Twister’, ‘Simon Says’ or the ‘Hokey Pokey’, with actions that involve placing body parts from one side of the body on the opposite side of the body
  • Drawing figure eight ‘racetracks' on a vertical plane (upright surface) such as a chalkboard, butchers paper taped to a wall or outside wall using the water from a hose
  • Throwing or rolling balls on the floor from the left and right of centre towards a target
  • Paddle games

These are a great starting point but if you’d like more bilateral integration and crossing midline activities head on over to the Fine Motor Skills page!

Games and activities that develop your whippersnapper’s hand strength will help them determine a dominant hand, including:

  • Playing with hand puppets (e.g. using the fingers to make them ‘talk’ or move in a certain way)
  • Helping in the kitchen (e.g. stirring, rolling, squeezing, pinching)
  • Playing construction games (e.g. blocks or using toy toolkit with hammers, screwdrivers and so on)
  • Ball games (e.g. rolling, throwing, bouncing)
  • Craft such as drawing, cutting, gluing, colouring over stencils and making collages

Extra tips for parents of lefties

Let’s face it – being left-handed can be tough. Continuously smudging your writing, having the spine of workbooks sit uncomfortably under your forearm, having to use right-handed scissors because your left-handed ones have grown legs and walked off somewhere… PlayBiz founder and ‘leftie’ Natalie Martin should know!

Whether or not your little one is following in your left-handed footsteps, here are a few things to consider:

  • Let junior ‘go with’ the dominant hand that makes sense for them (i.e. if they’re left-handed don't force them to be right-handed, as they did with Natalie’s father)
  • Teach them how to speak up about their left-handedness – sometimes lefties can be overlooked in a classroom setting and accidently instructed to right-handedness
  • Encourage little miss or mister to hold the pencil in a tripod (three-fingered) grip about 2.5–3.5 cm from the tip (so there’s more space for them to see what they’re writing)
  • When they’re sitting at a table or desk, ensure your youngster is sitting comfortably (with their feet on the floor or a footstep) and turned slightly to the right; that their arms and hands are towards the central left side of the desk; and that light is coming over their right shoulder
  • Slope the paper or notebook they’re writing on about 7–15° to the right
  • Source left-handed scissors for your little one to use (and don’t be fooled by ambidextrous scissors – the blades on left-handed scissors are positioned differently to others)

Fun fact: if your pint-sized human is left-handed, they join the 10–13% of people the world over who are also lefties!

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