While you watch eagerly as your baby grows and develops, you may be curious if your baby is right- or left-handed.
“Handedness” or “hand dominance” is our preference for using one hand over the other when performing a common task that requires agility and speed, like writing.
What Causes Left Handedness?
About 10 percent of people are left-handed. Researchers aren’t completely sure why some people are left-handed, but they do know there is a genetic component to left-handedness.
In other words, left handedness runs in families. If you or someone in your family is left-handed, then your baby has a higher chance of also being left-handed.
Early Signs that Your Baby Is Left-Handed
It might not be possible to figure out if your baby is right- or left-handed for quite some time. They might show preferences for a certain hand when eating or playing, but research has found that this can switch around depending on the task.
0 to 12 months
For the first year, babies will usually use both hands to perform tasks. Preference for one hand or the other might start becoming apparent by 12 months, but it’s not unusual for a toddler to switch hand preference well into their preschool years.
It’s important to note that while there could be certain early signs that your baby prefers the right or left hand, babies generally don’t acquire handedness until 2 years of age. If your baby is very strongly favoring one hand over the other around 1 year of age, research suggests that this could be a sign of a muscle problem or a disorder such as cerebral palsy. If you’re concerned, ask your pediatrician.
1 to 2 Years
Observe your baby when they’re eating. Does your baby grab food and place it in their mouth with the right or left hand? Research published in Developmental Psychology found that hand preference may be identified in children after 1 year of age when they are given the task of feeding themselves.
Younger children show weak and inconsistent hand preference tendencies. This is particularly true for left-handed children. While you should take the observations with a grain of salt, keep an eye on your child’s hand preferences. What hand does your infant use to pick up things that are right in front of them? What hand does your baby use for grooming?
A child’s handedness should be clear by the time they enter school. If not, talk with the teacher so they can help determine which hand your child should learn to write with so they don’t fall behind. Observing how your child does the following activities can help make the determination.
- cutting with scissors
- throwing a ball
- holding a fork or spoon
- using a lock and key
- playing with toys
- screwing lids onto jars
If your preschooler is left-handed, alert the teacher and make sure they know how to help left-handed children hold a pencil and position the paper the correct way.
Concerns About Left-Handedness
Don’t try to change your child’s handedness once it becomes apparent. Your child may get frustrated when they try to imitate a right-handed parent, sibling, or peer, but you can try to assist them by doing the following.
- Purchase scissors and other tools specifically made for lefties.
- Ensure that teachers and caregivers are aware of their handedness.
- Don’t dwell on it or constantly point it out; this makes your child self-conscious.
- Sit across from the child rather than right next to them while teaching them activities like shoe tying.
Common Myths About Left-Handed People
Since most of us use our right hands, “lefties” are often perceived as different.
A long time ago, there was even a cultural bias against left-handed people. Parents and teachers were known to force left-handed children to learn to use their right hand for writing and eating. In some cultures, lefties were thought to be evil or to bring bad luck. The Latin word “sinister” meant “left.” Most of these cultural myths and biases have since been proven false. Here are some other common myths you might hear about left-handed people.
They Are More Creative
This myth was created based on the fact that the right side of the brain, which controls the left side of our body, also controls our more creative processes. However, researchers have found that creativity is more complicated than that and there is little evidence out there to show that lefties are indeed more creative.
They Are More Introverted
This stereotype has little basis. A study of 662 left- and right-handed young adults found no differences whatsoever between the groups in five different personality traits: extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotionality, and openness to experience. Another study found no differences in intelligence between right- and left-handed people.
They Die at a Younger Age
This myth originates from a 1988 paper published in Nature that found that left-handed baseball players died earlier than right-handed baseball players. However, scientists haven’t been able to replicate this data and other research has shown no link between handedness and mortality.
Facts About Left-Handedness
While certain stereotypes about left-handed people have turned out to be myths, some of the stereotypes are indeed true.
Handwriting Is More Difficult
This is because they may smear the ink on their paper as they write. Some tips to make writing easier include:
- Use loose-leaf paper instead of spiral notebooks or books that are bound at the side.
- Test out several pens to find one that doesn’t smear.
- Use a pencil instead of a pen, if possible.
- Tilt the paper so that the arm is at a right angle to the bottom edge of the paper.
- Keep the wrist straight, not hooked, when writing.
Advantage in Certain Sports
A left-handed batter in baseball or softball starts out a bit closer to first base. Left-handed hitters also force the pitcher to throw the ball a little differently. In other sports, left-handed players can also more easily surprise or trick an opponent who is used to people kicking, boxing, or dribbling with their right side.
You should know by the time your child reaches age 10 whether or not they are left- or right-handed. If you or someone in your family is left-handed, there is a greater chance your baby will be left-handed as well.
Rest assured, left-handedness is totally normal. While some common products, like scissors and musical instruments, are typically designed with right-handed people in mind, many companies make products that are specifically designed for left-handed people.