My third child was born with a birth defect on her left thumb. I was relieved that it was her left hand so that it wouldn’t interfere with her learning to write. After all, most people are right-handed, right? She started out using both hands equally, but now she definitely writes with her left hand.
As parents, we don’t have a lot of say if our child is right handed or left handed. Approximately 10% of the population write with their left hand. This is more prominent in boys than in girls. Being left handed is genetic. It’s important to support your child with whatever hand they prefer until they choose a dominant hand.
Hand preference isn’t fully developed until between ages 5 and 6. If your child does prefer their left hand, teach them to verbalize that they are left handed. A lot of well-meaning classroom volunteers assume most children are right handed. This could cause problems or confuse your child. Being able to communicate and advocate for themselves is a skill that will help them throughout their whole life.
How to make writing easier
Let them write their way – Do you remember being corrected in elementary school because you started your O’s at the bottom, or crossed your T the wrong way? If you have a left handed child you might want to consider letting them write the letters however comes naturally to them. Definitely model the “correct” way, but if it seems overly hard for them let them find a way that works for them.
Encourage the use of good grasp – Pinch the pencil with the index finger and thumb and rest it on the middle finger. This is the same method righties use, just mirrored.
Paper placement is important – Encourage your child to angle their paper with the left corner pointed up. This allows for a more natural writing position and they should be able to write without having to excessively hook their wrist.
Teaching lefties to copy letters – Most worksheets place the model letter to the left or above where the child needs to write. This makes it harder for lefties because their hand covers the model letter. The popular “Handwriting Without Tears” program has custom made worksheets for left handed writers.
When children are young, focus on activities that strengthen their tripod muscles. Encourage them to use the thumb and index finger to pick up small objects. They don’t need to use a pencil right away. Small children learn writing skills by holding crayons, paint brushes, markers and chalk. Remember to be patient, model good skills, and try to make it fun.
-Melissa Fullmer, Social Media Intern