Left-handed people make up just 10% of the world’s population,1 and that can pose some challenges when navigating a world that’s largely designed to favour right-handedness. This includes learning to write.
Writing from left to right is more challenging for left-handers.2 This is because instead of pulling the pen across the paper like right-handed people do, they have to push it.2
Left-handed children can face challenges as they start learning to write, such as poor pencil grasp, smudged writing, or strain in the hand and arm.2 If you have a young left-handed child starting school, here are a few ways you can support them and make the process easier.
Top Tips for Parents of Left-Handed Kids
GIVE YOUR CHILD TIME TO CHOOSE.
Your child might show a preference for one hand between the ages of two and four years old, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll stick with it.3 Studies show that children will often swap hands up to the age of six.2
Take note of which hand your child prefers to use, but don’t try to force them to use either hand. Give them opportunities to explore using both hands for everyday activities, so they can decide which feels more comfortable for them.
PERFECT THE PAPER POSITION.
If your child has decided to favour their left hand when writing, you can help them by showing them the best paper position to use. Occupational therapists advise that left-handed children should have their paper positioned slightly to the left of their body, with the left corner angled upwards.2,4 This makes it easier for them to move their hand naturally and avoid smudging their work.2,4
PRACTISE PENCIL GRASP.
The “tripod” pencil grasp often works well for left-handers, so encourage your child to try this grasp.4 Get them to pinch their pencil with the index finger and thumb, resting it on the middle finger. This grasp helps with developing finger movements and proper wrist position, and makes it easier for your child to see the tip of their pencil as they write.4
Show your child how to stabilise their paper, by placing their right hand flat on the right-hand side of the paper to stop it from shifting around while they write.2,4 This keeps handwriting neater and prevents unnecessary frustration.
TALK TO TEACHERS AND ENCOURAGE YOUR CHILD TO SPEAK UP.
If your child has established their left-handedness, make sure they are able to communicate this once they start going to school. Teachers might mistakenly assume a child is right-handed, and unknowingly pressure them to use their right hand.4
It’s best to speak to your child’s teacher about their hand preference or dominance from the beginning, to avoid confusing your child and hampering their progress.4
Helping Your Child with Essential Everyday Skills
Supporting a left-handed child is about more than just writing.5 A left-handed youngster will also need to learn skills like drawing and painting, cutting out shapes, tying their shoes, holding cutlery and using electronic gadgets (like a tablet or a computer mouse) as they get older.
Talk to your paediatrician about the best tools and techniques to help your child learn essential skills for their age group.