Did you know that in addition to having a dominant hand, you also have a dominant leg and a dominant eye?
As toddlers learn how to use their arms and hands to pick things up, they start to develop a preferred hand. Usually a child has chosen their dominant hand by the time they are 3 years old. However, it is normal to still switch hands because they are still learning and becoming comfortable with how to use their body. By the time a child is 4 years old, they should be consistently using their “preferred” hand to color, hold a fork, and snip with scissors. The non-preferred hand becomes a “helper”. Some children take longer to establish a hand dominance. In the “olden days”, children were forced to use their right hand. However, it is not suggested to force a dominance on a child. There are other ways to determine which is the child’s preferred side. Once it’s figured out, it’s easy to help a child become more comfortable with one side or the other. So, if your child is still switching, here are some easy tips to figure it out.
You can test a child’s eye dominance by asking them to look through a kaleidoscope, camera window, or even a toilet paper tube! Usually a child will immediately place the object up to their dominant eye.
You can test a child’s leg dominance by asking them to stand on one foot or hop. Usually, the child will immediately choose their preferred foot. They can perform better on that side. You can also try rolling a ball to the child. They will choose to kick the ball with the dominant leg.
If you try all of these tasks and see that your child consistently chooses one side, you can use simple techniques to help them remember to use that hand in school. Check out my tips in getting children to use the same hand with scissors as well. Put a stamp on that hand before they go to school so they remember that it’s their “writing hand”. Put a rubber bracelet or a hair tie on that wrist to remind them to use that hand when cutting and coloring.
If you have tried all of these tricks and your child is still inconsistent, contact your pediatrician. If your child is significantly delayed in developing a hand dominance, it can really impact their performance in school. An occupational therapist can help your child to “catch up” so that they can do their job as a child; learn and play.
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Good Luck! Hope these tips work for you!
~Miss Jaime, OT