Provide the correct materials for your left-handed child.

When Can You Tell If a Child Is Right or Left Handed?

by Rebekah Richards

It's no guarantee he'll end up the next Jimi Hendrix or Babe Ruth, but your toddler has about a 10 percent chance of being left-handed. If left-handedness runs in your family, your children are even more likely to be lefties, although two left-handed parents can have right-handed kids too. You can't change which hand your child prefers, but recognizing left-handedness early can help you provide the right accommodations for your child.


Some children show a preference for their right or left hand as an infant; for example, they may suck their left thumb if left-handed. Other children don't show a preference until they are three or four years old, according to the extension program at the University of Wisconsin. If you're curious, pay attention to what hand your child uses to reach for food, toys or crayons. Lefties are also more likely to stir or turn screws in a counter-clockwise direction.

Aren't Sure?

If your child isn't expressing a preference for either hand, encourage her to use both hands to eat, draw and hold objects until she figures out which hand is best. Some children simply take longer to show a preference; only about one percent of kids are ambidextrous, or equally able to use both hands, according to Science Daily. If your child remains ambidextrous, training her to use her right hand is probably best, reports the University of Wisconsin Extension.

Accommodating Left-Handed Children

Left-handed children may struggle to use objects designed for right-handed children, such as desks and scissors. Help your child by providing left-handed scissors and notebooks that are bound at the top instead of the side. In addition, provide pens and markers that don't smear when a child rubs her hand across writing or drawing. You'll also want to check to ensure that daycare and school have supplies for left-handed students, since using products designed for right-handers can make lefties feel clumsy or inadequate.


Scientists aren't sure why some people are left-handed, but many myths about left-handedness aren't true. Most importantly, it's not a disease or something that should be fixed. On the other hand, people once believed being left-handed meant you were automatically more creative or had a differently wired brain, but that's not necessarily true, according to So don't get your hopes up that your left-handed child will grow up to be Picasso. The brains of left-handed individuals, though, are wired a bit differently than the brains of right-handed people, which might account for a creative streak. Being left-handed and left-footed can give kids a slight advantage in sports. For example, left-handed batters start out closer to first base and left-handed basketball and soccer players can surprise their opponents by attacking from the left. And tennis? The lefties' backhand packs a wallop against right-handed players.

Stay Positive

Being left-handed can be inconvenient -- from notebooks to scissors to doors, lefties live in a world designed for right-handed people. But don't try to make your child learn to be right-handed or express your disappointment if he's showing signs of being a lefty. And if your child gets down about being different, remind her that four of our last seven presidents have been left-handed. Finally, don't forget to celebrate Left Handers day on August 13th!

About the Author

Rebekah Richards is a professional writer with work published in the "Atlanta Journal-Constitution," "Brandeis University Law Journal" and online at She graduated magna cum laude from Brandeis University with bachelor's degrees in creative writing, English/American literature and international studies. Richards earned a master's degree at Carnegie Mellon University.

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