Tips for Parents of Left-Handed Children.
Being a lefty is not a negative thing, but the world tends to lend itself better to us right-handed folks.
How many people in your life are left-handed? Maybe you are. I am not, but my mom is, one of best friends is, and my five-year-old son is. I’ve read that you can’t actually be sure which hand your child will favor until around their fifth birthday, but my experience has been different. My son has always favored his left hand for writing, coloring, eating, and throwing. While in today’s world we have many tools to help lefties go about their business such as left-handed baseball mitts, left-handed scissors, and left-handed guitars, there are still plenty of challenges that await left-handed people in our right-handed dominated world.
Determining Your Child’s Dominant Hand
Before you jump to any conclusions about whether or not your child is left-handed, relax. It doesn’t really make a huge difference in the grand scheme of things. Most children actually appear ambidextrous throughout their infancy and toddler years. Natural progression will eventually show which hand is going to dominate. While I’ve seen several tests that you can give your child to try to determine left or right-handedness, I’d have to say the easiest way to find out is to watch your child. I noticed my son using his left hand more dominantly around age three. I didn’t interfere and he’s continued to prefer writing, eating, and basically using his left hand for most activities. If you haven’t been paying close attention, just watch your child and see what hand he’ll use to pick up a dropped item, or which hand he’ll use to color. Keep in mind that younger children may alternate between both hands, but eventually, one will become more comfortable than the other and then you’ll know!
Challenges of Left-handed Children
Once you’ve determined that your child is left-handed, you’ll want to be creative in supporting him. Being a lefty is not a negative thing, but the world tends to lend itself better to us right-handed folks. Definitely keep some left-handed friendly items on hand, especially once your child starts school. I also recommend letting the teacher know so that supplies can be provided as needed. It is funny that I always had trouble cutting with this one pair of scissors my mom had. Now I realize that they were left-handed scissors. If you are a righty, give those a try and then you’ll know how the lefties feel when they have to use the right-handed ones. It’s not impossible, but it’s harder, slower, and a lot less comfortable. Besides items that are generally fashioned for right-handed use, lefties can also struggle with seating and lighting arrangements, as well as possible challenges in learning to read. With everything being left to right, there is a slight difference in the way the mind picks up the information and views it. It may or may not be a challenge, but you can definitely be prepared for it.
How Can You Help?
I decided to ask a couple lefties that I know what they think would be good tips to share. My mom says that when she was a kid the schools kept their ink wells on the right side of the desk. This was difficult for her because she had to reach across for ink and would generally smudge her paper. Now, don’t tell my mom this, but schools don’t use ink wells anymore. Moving on, a lefty friend of mine let me know that the biggest challenges he could think of involved sports and playing guitar. I figure he overcame the latter as he’s an amazing guitarist, and he plays left-handed. He said that starting out on a regular guitar might be easier than going left-handed right away. So, if your little lefty is heading out for sports, be sure you DO check out the left-hand-friendly equipment, but regardless if it’s sports or music, take your child with you to the store and have him try out different items and see what feels most comfortable. I have an older brother who is right-handed, but bats left-handed, so technically, this rule could apply to lefties and righties. Other things to consider are group settings. I know that my mom always likes to sit to the left of someone in a booth or table during meals. This prevents her and her neighbor from bumping arms throughout the meal. You may also notice that if you are right-handed, teaching your left-handed child to do something such as cut, write, hold a fork, or tie a shoe, might be more easily understood if you are facing the child and having them mirror you instead of copying your actual movements. Also, be sure you don’t treat your child any differently because of their dominant left hand. Long gone are the days when doctors and parents would try to correct a child for using the “wrong” hand. A child shouldn’t be treated as better or worse than any other simply because one hand dominates over the other. I haven’t ever seen it evolve into any sibling rivalry, but there’s definitely no need to call attention to it either.
Left Handed Child image from Shutterstock