As soon as your child develops his motor skills, he’ll be showing you his dominant hand. What should you do if it's his left one?
First of all, says Gina Landfair, Occupational Therapist at Chicago's Children's Memorial Hospital, don't force a round peg into a square hole. If you suspect your child's a lefty, don't attempt to transform him into a righty. “This just causes more problems later,” Landfair says.
At around age 5, your child's dominant hand will be very apparent. In fact, at times parents can tell at as young as age 3 which side a child prefers. Suspect your child is a lefty but not 100% sure? Try these tests: Place a ball down on the floor and ask her to pick it up and throw it. Set a spoon alongside her yogurt and watch her pick it up and eat.
Once you're sure you have a lefty living under your roof, there are a few things to keep in mind. True, you'll raise your left-handed child the same way you would if he were right-handed. But you may face some small challenges you might not have thought about otherwise.
Probably the most significant area of concern for parents of left-handed children is writing. According to Landfair, lefties simply cannot write with a piece of paper positioned vertically. For school age children (kindergarten to first grade), parents can help significantly by teaching them to tilt their paper toward their right, she says. Just as important, make sure your child is grasping the pen properly. Lefties have a tendency to use a ‘hook’ grasp so they can see what they are writing, but they should be encouraged to hold writing instruments the "right" way. Also, buy quick drying pens, as lefties tend to smear the ink as they're writing, because their hands skim over their recent work as they move on to the next section. When it's time to introduce your child to a computer, Landfair recommends investing in a left-handed mouse.
Moving from pen to pavement, be aware that learning to tie shoes can be more challenging for lefties. Sometimes it helps to tie your shoes in front of a mirror so your left-handed child can see how she should do it. Landfair suggests letting your child practice while the shoes are off first, then try tying with them on. (In her sessions, it usually takes a lefty longer to learn to tie shoes, so have patience).
Finally, take advantage of new fangled things. The industry has become savvy, bringing to market a slew of products made just for the lefties in our midst. From school essentials like left handed notebooks, scissors, and pens, to objects that just make life a little easier-- like can openers or sports equipment, there are plenty of products designed specifically for left-handed people. It’s worth the money to ease your child’s (and your) frustration.
According to Landfair, “The main thing to keep in mind when teaching either a right-handed or left-handed child, is a lot of repetition.” Kids need to do things over and over to learn a skill.
The bottom line? Stop worrying about your lefty! True, he might not do things the exact same way as the other kids on the block. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, studies show that left-handed people tend to have higher IQs than right-handed people.
Even though a left-handed person crosses his T’s from right to left or hangs his clothes in the closet opposite of how a right-handed person would, there’s no reason to think he won’t turn out just fine, or even be first in his class. He’ll grow up just like any other child. He’ll just do it from a slightly different angle.