Parenting Your Left-Handed Child

by Staff

left-handing child drawingDiscovering the world can be exciting and fun for young children, but frustrating if things don't work. Cranks on toys, pencil sharpeners, cameras and keyboards are major culprits. These tips can help your lefty thrive in a right-handed world..

Is My Child Left-Handed?

In "Helping Your Left-Handed Preschool Child," Laura Milsom says some babies show they are left-handed from day one, even sucking their left thumb. However, most kids appear ambidextrous through their infancy and toddler years.

Your kid might be a lefty if he or she:

  • Uses left hand to reach for toys and crayons
  • Eats or holds utensils with left hand
  • Stirs counter-clockwise
  • Turns things anti-clockwise?, tries to wind up a toy by unwinding it
  • More secure standing on the left leg

While your child's handedness develops, you might see them switching between their left and right, and even alternating left and right with fine and gross motor skills. For instance, Jayden throws right-handed and colors left-handed. Eventually one hand becomes comfortable (dominant) and then you'll know.

Being a Lefty

The brain's right hemisphere controls left-handedness. And lefties do seem to have an advantage in right hemisphere skills like visual creativity, art, music, and tasks requiring good spatial judgment and rapid reactions. Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Ludwig van Beethoven, Benjamin Franklin, Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Charlie Chaplin, Bobby Fisher are just some on the list of exceptionally-talented lefties.

Cool Left-Handed Facts

  • An older mother is more likely to give birth to left-handed children
  • Slightly over 10% of us are left-handed
  • 75% of left-handers have two right-handed parents
  • Four of the last five presidents have been left-handed
  • Men are twice as likely to be left-handed as women
  • Four of the original designers of the Mac computer were left-handed

Usually I love the advantages of being left-handed. But being a lefty's not so awesome when I'm using scissors, computers, phones. Parents, left-handed scissors are the most important thing in life; get your kids some. It's so annoying to use right-handed ones. Oh, all doors and faucets turn the wrong way. I've run over my bare feet with a door too many times to count. Stupid doors! ~Serena, left-handed, 20-something artist, Seattle

Left-handers need to do most tasks back-to-front with equipment that wasn't handy for them. Many learn to be very adaptable and that pays off later in life when it comes to problem solving according to Milsom. While being a lefty has some advantages, it also comes with it’s own set of drawbacks. Pencil sharpeners, faucets, corkscrews and scissors are just a few of the challenges.

Right? What's Left?

"Being left-handed is not a curse, it's not a handicap and it's not a restraint," says Martha Pieper, co-author of "Smart Love." "A child is still a child, in need of guidance, love, understanding, instruction and modeling, regardless of which hand they choose to hold a spoon."

Everything was different with my lefty. Teaching her to do things from tying her shoes to learning to write. It's all insanity! She has to sit in a certain position at our table. I can't teach her crafts. Even teaching her to cook is different. ~Shellie, member

When Demonstrating a New Skill:

Be your child's mirror: If you're right-handed and teaching a skill like how to tie shoe laces, stand or sit opposite your left-handed child. Your actions are reversed. (Left-handed parents, try this same tip when teaching your righty a skill.)

In the kitchen: Guide your left-hander at mixing and pouring by positioning handles toward your child's left hand. Be aware many tools are unfriendly for lefties. Total Health reports that left-handedness appears to be a risk factor for unintentional injury.

Writing positions: Show your child how position the paper. Does your preschooler begin on the wrong side of the paper? Draw a green line down the left-hand side of the paper. Tell your child to write away from the green line just like mommy drives away from the green light.

Holding a pencil: On a soft molded pencil grip, draw an "L" to show where thumb and index finder belong.

Advocate. Have your "lefty" child prepared with the right tools and equipment. Look for coaches and music instructors who know how to instruct left-handers.

Southpaw Savers

In a world made for right-handed people, left-handed children can have a difficult time. Pencil sharpeners, can openers, corkscrews and scissors are just a few of the challenges.

Scissors: Scissors design for lefties push the blades together as your hands squeeze together. The left blade is on top so your child can see the cutting line and grips are molded to fit.

Pens: Nibs in pens are designed to slide on the paper and give a smooth ink flow when pulled with the right hand. When pushed with the left hand, scratching and no ink. Specialty pens eliminate this problem and many are shaped so your child can improve their writing.

Sports and stuff: Get those baseball gloves, golf clubs and other sports equipment made specifically for left-handers. Have a budding musician? Look for a left-handed guitar.

Before I had my own baseball glove as a child, I always have to share with the other children. I'd have to catch the ball, drop the glove, throw the ball, and retrieve the glove. ~Josh, left-handed child

Computer setup: Move the mouse to the left side of the computer and switch the mouse buttons for your lefty.

Celebrate your child's left-handedness. Being left for them is most definitely right!

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