Lefties shouldn't feel left out, because life as a lefty is great!

Left & Right-Handedness in Toddlers

by Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell

You should have a pretty good idea whether your tot favors his right or left hand by the time he's 2-years-old. Sometimes a little one reveals her hand preference a whole lot sooner! A newborn may consistently suck her left thumb instead of her right. Don't get your feathers in a tether if it takes your tyke a little longer than "average" to discover which hand he prefers. A few, rare number of toddlers (perhaps future jugglers!) turn out to be ambidextrous and can color, drink from a cup and perform other activities equally well with both hands.

Genetics and Hand Dominance

Approximately 85 percent of people are right-handed, according to Scientific American.com. Genetics is primarily responsible for left-handedness, says Paul Satz, PhD, chief of the neuropsychology program at UCLA's Neuropsychiatric Institute. Two manifestations of a gene at the same genetic spot are linked with handedness. One is the D gene for dextral or right and the other is the C gene for change. Most people carry the D gene. If your tot has the less common C gene it means her hand preference is determined randomly and essential boils down to a flip of a coin as to whether she'll be left or right handed.

Advantages of Being a Lefty

Brains of left-handed people are structured in such a way that they are slightly more likely than righties to be musical prodigies or math whizzes. That may explain why some left-handed individuals have both an eye for numbers and a ear for music. Lefties may have the upper hand from a tactical standpoint in one-on-one sports activities. Most right-handed tennis players aren't accustomed to playing left handers, while lefties have plenty of experience taking on right handers. So, if you have a left-handed tot who shows an affinity for racket sports -- rejoice! She could be the next tennis phenom! Sports fields and arenas can be asymmetric which may give lefties a one up. For example in baseball, a left-handed hitter is closer to first base after hitting the ball than a right-handed batter. And if your toddler son is a lefty with a propensity for hitting a ball with his plastic bat, he might be on track to be an MLB all star!


Notice which hand your toddler uses when eating, grabbing crayons or blocks and reaching for toys. If your tot is "helping" you make dinner, pay attention to how she stirs. Right-handed tykes prefer to stir clockwise while lefties tend to stir counter-clockwise. Same goes for winding up toys. A lefty may inadvertently unwind is toy as he turns it in the opposite direction. Dressing can also offer clues as to whether your young child is destined to be left- or right-hand dominate. A left-handed toddler may want to stand on her left leg first while putting on the right leg of his pants, while a right-handed tot would do the opposite.

Legendary Lefties

Let your left-handed toddler know that he's in good company. Presidents Barack Obama, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford are on the long list of legendary lefties. Famous lefty musicians and singers include Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Natalie Cole, Phil Collins and Lou Rawls. Goldie Hawn, Dan Aykroyd, Robert Redford, Robert DeNiro are among well-known left-handed actors. Former tennis pro John McEnroe and baseball great Kent Hrbek are both left handed.


If the jury is still out on whether your toddler will be right or left-handed try a few experiments, although not the kind that involve mixing a concoction of scientific chemicals in a dark corner of your basement. Rather, encourage your toddler to use both hands when holding cups, eating and drawing if she doesn't appear to prefer one hand over the other, advises the University of Wisconsin, Extension Service.

About the Author

Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell is a broadcast journalist who began writing professionally in 1980. Her writing focuses on parenting and health, and has appeared in “Spirituality & Health Magazine" and “Essential Wellness.” Hellesvig-Gaskell has worked with autistic children at the Fraser School in Minneapolis and as a child care assistant for toddlers and preschoolers at the International School of Minnesota, Eden Prairie.

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