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Righty or Lefty?

Handedness

Lots of parents are interested to know whether their child will be right-handed or left-handed. It will take years before you know. So while you wait, here’s how it works...

From Both to One to Either

At first, you’ll notice babies use both hands to reach for things. That’s a reflexive movement pattern often referred to as mirrored movement.

 

As those early reflexes release and their muscles strengthen, they start reaching out with one hand. But that isn’t handedness yet. Chances are they are just using the closest hand.

 

From there, most little ones graduate to using either hand randomly. That’s a good sign their muscle development is progressing naturally, insuring equally balanced strength on the right and left sides.

 

Handedness

For the brain, communicating with all those moving parts takes a lot of time and energy. So when the time is right (and only the brain knows that) the brain assigns a “field marshal,” so to speak to streamline communications and coordination between the body and the brain.

 

It’s actually an efficiency strategy. The less energy the brain needs to spend on movement, the more time it has for developing more advanced cognitive processes.

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Is It Better to Be Righty or Lefty?

Handedness is already decided before birth. Right or left makes no difference whatsoever to their development or learning.

 

About 90% of us are right-handed. Perhaps that’s why years ago (and even in some cultures still today) being left-handed was considered a problem. Some even took steps to “correct” left-handedness. But attempts to interfere can confuse the brain, making things like reading, spelling, coordination and many other things more challenging.

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What You Can Do

Like everything else in early childhood, nature has a plan and we need to respect and encourage it. A few things to think about...

 

For babies, when you put an object in front of them put it in the middle so they can reach for it with both or either hand.

 

For toddlers, encourage them to move to the right and left equally. For instance, if they spin around to the right, coax them to spin back around to the left. Roll a ball to them to catch it as they see fit. Then roll it to their left. Then to their right.

 

Giving them lots of chances to explore both left and right will make them ready for the day when nature decides which side is going to be their “helping hand.”

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