Early on, most children show signs of favoring one hand over the other. Some parents may choose to encourage their children to use both hands equally. While learning to be ambidextrous is unlikely to increase your child’s brain function, strengthening the non-dominant hand may make other tasks easier, such as playing a musical instrument, certain sports or other activities requiring an equal use of both hands.
Fine Motor Skills
Hand, finger and wrist exercises help strengthen muscles. Tap each finger, one at a time, to the thumb. Continue to pick up speed and then try it in reverse order. Wrist rotations, as well as repeatedly opening and closing a fist help strengthen the whole hand. Coloring and eating with the left hand will also help with coordination of the non-dominant hand. Tracing, painting and cutting help develop fine motor skills. If your child will be cutting left-handed, it is best to purchase a pair of left-handed scissors.
Gross Motor Skills
Practice catching and throwing a ball with the left hand. Swimming, pushups, chin-ups, jumping rope and small hand weights are effective for strengthening both hands equally. Playing an instrument, such as the drums, or woodworking activities, such as hammering and nailing, also support left hand gross motor activity.
Play a game of “Simon Says” using commands such as raise your left hand, kick your left leg, touch your left hand to your left eyebrow and other instructions using the left side. Use a sponge to transfer water from one bucket to another, squeezing the water out with the left hand. Paint a face on a tennis ball and cut a slit for the mouth. Have your child squeeze the mouth open and chomp up bits of fake food or toys.
Children naturally develop dominance in one hand over the other at an early age. While some children are born ambidextrous, these children appear to have more difficulties in school and often have developmental issues. It is beneficial for children to develop fine and gross motor skills and they should be encouraged to do so. However, children should not be forced into ambidexterity or into replacing the dominant hand with the non-dominant one. If you are concerned about your child’s ability or reluctance to use his left hand, consult with a qualified professional for evaluation.