The Royal Children’s Hospital states that hand dominance is the consistent preference of one hand over the other when doing the skilled part of an activity, while the non-dominant hand supports the movement. A practical example of this is whenever we are writing something and, while our dominant hand is scribbling with a pen, the other hand holds the paper.
Most children will start to show signs of exploring their laterality around 24 to 48 months of age. Usually by the time they start elementary school, they will have established their dominant and their support hand. If your son hasn’t done that yet and he still switches between hands in everyday tasks, do not force him into using only one hand. Rather, observe and encourage your little one to participate in lots of activities that will provide with plenty of opportunities for exploring hand dominance. Here are some ideas:
- Place items around your child’s midline (centered to his bellybutton). This applies to crayons, toys and everyday objects that you’d want him to reach for.
- Use hand puppets to play with your little one and let him choose which hand gets to play the puppet.
- Make finger paintings.
- Have your child help you in the kitchen. He can roll, make balls of dough, cut with cookie-cutters, open and close jars, etc.
- Do age-appropriate arts and crafts like beading, weaving, playing with pipe cleaners, etc.
- Give praise and feedback.
- Encourage your son to finish an activity with the hand he started with. It’s okay if that one hand is getting tired and he wants to have a rest. Do so, stretch and then ask him to continue. While you do these activities talk about which hand is doing do hard work and which hand is helping.