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How can you tell if your child is left-handed?

Most babies use both hands to begin with, and rarely show any preference before about 7 to 9 months old. By about 18 months many children use one hand consistently, but 4 to 6 year old children may still be undecided as to their dominant hand.

Catching and throwing a ball is not always a good way to tell hand preference. Some ways to tell if your child is left-handed include:

  • Which hand do they use to reach for toys and crayons placed directly in front of them?
  • Which hand do they use to feed themselves (either finger food or spoon)?
  • Do they stir or turn things counter-clockwise?
  • Which hand do they use to brush their teeth with or comb their hair?

What is the cause?

Whether a child is left-handed or right-handed depends mainly on how the baby’s brain develops before birth. It may be caused by genes passed from parent to child.

About 10% of people are left-handed. Males are about twice as likely to be left-handed than are females.

Does being left-handed cause problems?

Left-handedness is related to the brain, not the hand. It is not just a habit. There is no great disadvantage to being left-handed. Many famous and successful people throughout history were left-handed.

Some left-handed children who are forced by parents or teachers to switch to the right hand may have problems with language or have trouble learning to read and write.

If you have concerns, have your child checked by your healthcare provider.

How can I help my child?

If you are right-handed, sit across from your child when teaching them to tie their shoes or get dressed. This gives them a mirror image to copy, and is easier than sitting beside them to demonstrate.

Lefties have to get special left-handed golf clubs, hockey sticks, and baseball mitts. They usually can't just borrow friends' equipment.

Left-handers should only use scissors designed for them. Scissors and saws for right-handed people can be dangerous for lefties. When your child reaches school age, make sure that he or she doesn't have to sit at desks for right-handers. When students begin to write, they should learn paper and pencil positions for the left-hander. For example, it helps for the left-hander to hold her or his pencil a little higher than the right-hander.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2013.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2012-09-17
Last reviewed: 2012-05-14
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2013 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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