The good news is that there’s no difference in development between left-handed and right-handed children. But it’s still important to give some extra attention to your left-handed little one to help them learn important skills like writing. Development psychologist and early years expert Dr David Whitebread shares his top tips.
With about 10 per cent of the population estimated to be left-handed, you might notice your child favouring their left hand once they start picking up objects, playing sports and learning to write.
What makes a child left-handed?
To put it simply, their genes. But of course it’s not quite as easy as that – other factors come into play too. “So there’s no guarantee that your child will be left-handed just because you or your partner are,” says David, “And there are even examples of two right-handed parents having a left-handed child!”
When do you know?
The age when a little one starts showing a preference for a particular hand tends to vary from child to child. “Some children aren’t decidedly one or the other until after starting school, and it can even take some children up to the age of six to decide!” says David.
It’s normal for this to be a slow process, so let your child decide for themselves by using whichever hand they favour for different tasks, like picking up different tools and playing games.
Left-handed children and development
Many parents worry that this slight difference in their child could affect their development, but luckily this is mostly a myth.
“There’s no study that suggests any consistent difference between left-handed and right-handed children’s development,” says David.
“Some children will always learn dexterity skills more easily than others, especially writing – but there’s no link between this and their dominant hand.”
Don’t worry about mirror writing
One thing that parents and teachers may worry about when a left-handed child starts writing is ‘mirror writing’ – writing sentences in reverse direction that would look normal when reflected in a mirror.
David says that this is a completely normal part of any child’s development, but is more common for left-handers. “If you think of a toy, chair or other object, it’s always the same whichever way round it is. Writing, letters and numbers are one of the first things children discover where it matters which way round it is – if you write a number three backwards, it’s not a three anymore. It’s an unusual concept for young children to adapt to.”
Luckily, through reading and learning gradually, mirror writing generally corrects itself. “Although some children just enjoy doing it on purpose because they find it funny when their parents or a teacher can’t read it – like a code!”
Helping your left-handed little one
Conventionally, most everyday objects are designed for right-handed people, so it’s important to equip a left-handed little one with the right tools to help them – especially when they are still learning how and when to use different objects. For example, try providing things like left-handed scissors, pens and rulers.
“The main problem for left-handed children isn’t being left-handed – it’s that they are living in a mainly right-handed world,” says David. He advises observing your child closely, and provide for whichever hand they seem to favour – allowing them to ultimately decide for themselves.
And with a little help from you, your child will love being left-handed.
Find out more about preschool development on Tesco Baby Club.