Handedness: Left or Right? Can you Tell?

If you’re curious about which hand your young child prefers, be sure to watch closely and take notes. Identifying hand preference can be difficult. A parent will have to use good observation skills and patience.

Good observations and skills will help you determine your child's handedness.
Good observations and skills will help you determine your child’s handedness.

The discussion of left vs. right handedness has been a conversation in by household since my oldest child was a toddler.  With 2 right handed parents, my oldest son is a lefty.  This perplexed our family until we learned from my parents that until I entered school, I was a lefty.  In those days, it was quite common to “unlearn” left handedness in school to be considered “normal”. Today, educators are more aware that it’s genetics and the brain that leads to a child’s dominant hand. Changing a child’s dominant hand is no longer an accepted practice and left handedness is, indeed, normal.  

The left/right hand conversation continues in our house today but has moved to understanding the handedness of my grandchildren.  With a left-handed son and daughter in law it would be my guess that at least one of their 3 children would be left handed.  However, so far, we have 2 righty’s and 1 not yet determined.  My daughter and son in law, both right handed, have confused us by having 3 left handed children.  My youngest son and daughter in law, both right handed have 1 right handed daughter and 1 not yet determined. So, with all these unexplained handedness questions in our family, I’m on a search for answers.

What is Hand Dominance or Handedness?

Simply, hand dominance or handedness is the hand that is most used in performing tasks.  This hand is the most nimble and rapid in performance. When young children start to consistently favor one hand over the other, they are showing that they are a “righty” or “lefty”.

Interesting Facts About Lefties and Righties

  • Hand preference is usually hereditary.
  • Boys are more likely than girls to be left-handed.
  • No matter what your child’s preference is experts advise against pressuring your child to choose one hand over the other or rushing the process.
  • Roughly 90 percent of us are right-handed.
  • You won’t be able to completely identify if your child is right or left-handed until the beginning of elementary school.

11 Things to Observe When Discovering Handedness

The list below contains some generally considered reliable indicators of hand preference.

  • Observe which foot is used to regain balance when a child loses balance.  
  • See which ear your child uses for speaking and listening on a phone.  
  • Which eye does he use when he looks through a hole in a piece of paper or looks through a telescope or kaleidoscope?
  • Ask your child to cross their legs and watch which leg they place on top.
  • When reaching for an item placed directly in front of him, what hand does he reach with?
  • If your child stirs things counter-clockwise, he/she is most likely left handed.
  • Which hand does he hold a toothbrush, silverware, comb?
  • Opening a door, a left-handed person will generally open it towards the right and a right-handed person towards the left.
  • Watch how your child twists a lid off a jar.  A left handed will try to twist to the left A right handed will try to open it to the right.
  • What hand does your child tend to use when blowing his or her nose?
  • Watch closely what foot and hand your child uses when participating in sports activities.

5 Activities to Reinforce Left and Right

So how do we learn our left and right? Although the exact process is not totally understood, the concept can be taught and reinforced both in preschool and at home.   

  • Sing songs such as the Hokey Pokey to both teach and reinforce left/right.
  • Left, Right, Center (LRC) game – Start with 3 tokens and 3 dice that have a L, R, or C on each one.  After rolling the 3 dice, you pass one of your tokens to each of the directions rolled.  The C is for the middle.  Dots mean you keep your tokens.     
  • Be sure to stand next to the child (not opposite) when demonstrating left/right to avoid confusion.  
  • Use the terms left and right in everyday activities –Show me your left foot, raise your right hand etc.
  • Dressing – When helping your child to dress always begin with their dominant side “step in with your right foot, slide your right arm through the sleeve”.

Quick Trick: Have children place their hands palm down in front of them with the thumbs touching. The left hand looks like the letter L.  Explain that this will remind them which hand is the Left.

If you’re curious about which hand your young child prefers, be sure to watch closely and take notes. Identifying hand preference can be difficult.  A parent will have to use good observation skills and patience.  

Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?