It will be such a delight for any parent to watch their baby grow. There would be nothing as thrilling and exciting for them to watch their little ones reach various developmental milestones - smiling, crawling, walking and talking. And, that is when you can identify some of your child’s personalities. One of the most important things you will notice is hand preference(hand dominance) - your child’s preference to his right or left hand. I have categorized this article into the following 6 segments.
- What is hand dominance or handedness?
- Why is hand dominance important?
- When will I know if my child is right-handed or left-handed?
- How to determine if your child is left or right handed?
- Consequences of changing the handedness of a child
- How to bring up a left handed child in the right handed world?
Hand dominance is when a child shows preference of one hand over the other. Scientifically, it is defined as the the hand that is most used in performing a task or the distribution of fine motor skills between the right and left hand. There are four types: right-handedness, left-handedness, mixed-handedness and ambidexterity.
1. Right-handedness - It is when people primarily use their right hand when performing a task. The vast majority of the population, about 90% are right handed.
2. Left-handedness - It is when people primarily use the left hand when performing a task. About 10% of the population are left handed.
3. Mixed-handedness - It is when people can perform different tasks better with different hands. For example, someone may write with their left hand and throw using the right hand. Around 30% of the population exhibit this particular trait.
4. Ambidexterity- It is when people perform all the tasks equally well in both the hands. Ambidexterity is very rare with less than 1% of the world population displaying this trait.
Hand dominance is a basic skill that a child has to develop to perform any task efficiently. Hand dominance is very essential to develop accuracy and speed in performing tasks like writing, buttoning a shirt, tying shoes etc. When one hand is dominant the other becomes the "helper or assistant hand" - when cutting a paper, the assistant hand holds the paper while the dominant hand cuts with scissors. Hand dominance should be established by the age of 6, so that the child can perform the basic living tasks efficiently.
There is no set or specific age when a child shows hand dominance. Babies as young as 6 months begin experimenting with both the hands - like using both the hands equally for grabbing a toy. Most children tend to develop hand dominance or prefer one hand over the other around the age of 2 or 3. Although some children, until they start school after age 5, may us both the hands equally and that is perfectly normal. Hand dominance is influenced by genetics. A baby as young as 6 months should begin experimenting with both the hands. Talk to your paediatrician if your young baby uses only one hand as it might be a motor development issue in the less used hand.
Hand preference emerge when the kids are as early as 18 months, but some kids develop hand preference as late as 5 to 6 years. There are many ways you can determine a child’s preferred hand. The best time to look for hand preference in kids is when he is performing his everyday tasks and during his playtime.
1. By the time your child is 18 months you can look for indicators of dominant hand. Most of the kids use their dominant hand to reach for an object placed directly in front of them, eat finger foods or catch and throw a ball.
2. Around age 2, take signals when your child is performing these simple everyday tasks - their preferred hand to hold spoon or fork, holding his sipper or glass, flipping pages.
3. Around age 3 you can observe them while performing these complex tasks - your child’s preferred hand in holding a crayon or while cutting a piece of paper they will use their dominant hand to hold the scissor and the helper hand to hold the paper
4. Try observing your preschooler’s preferred hand in performing everyday tasks like brushing his teeth, buttoning his shirt, opening a box, combing his hair, drawing.
The above mentioned everyday activities are the accurate indicators in determining the handedness of your child. Always observe their dominant hand and the switching of hands during the activity.
Handedness of a child is a trait determined by the brain and genetics. It is always best to allow a child to choose his hand preference. Handedness is inborn and not a learned skill. Changing a child's hand preference may lead to frustration and leave the child confused. The practice of converting inborn handedness will negatively affect the development of a child, especially if a child uses a non- dominant hand to write with.
The handedness of your child will not affect their academic ability in anyway. If your child is left-handed, he will be among the 10% of the population. There are many ways you can help your left handed child survive in this right handed world.
1. If you think your child is left handed ensure that they learn to write left-handed. A left handed child should be taught to write correctly. It is very important for a parent to understand how to teach a left- handed child. Read more to know how to teach your left handed child write.
2. Always encourage your child’s left-handed abilities. Tell them that being a minority isn’t bad. Talk to them about left handed people who enjoy great success- Mahatma Gandhi, Narendra Modi, Barack Obama, Sachin Tendulkar, Ratan Tata and many others.
3. Encourage playing their favourite sport. Left handed people are always at an advantage when it comes to sports, as right handed players are less accustomed to left handed players.
A left-handed person can do much more with their right hand than a right handed person can do with their left hand. Even though researches cannot prove why left handed people make up a large part of those who are highly intelligent. It is very important for a parent to identify the dominant hand of their child at the right time. It helps the child in the acquisition of gross and motor skills that helps in enhancing confidence and self-esteem.
“God made everyone right-handed, the truly gifted overcome it.” -Unknown. Happy parenting!