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Baby Steps: Give 'Em a Hand

Q. My toddler seemed ambidextrous until a few weeks ago, when she started showing a slight preference for her left hand. She tends to use it for drawing and throwing, but not always, and she still uses her right hand for many other things. I'm tempted to encourage her to use her right hand because it doesn't seem easy to be a lefty in a right-handed world. What do you think?

A. Hand preference, or hand dominance, isn't really established until 2 or 3 years of age, so your daughter may still be experimenting with the feeling of working with different hands. Some children display a clear preference very early on but may switch later. Still others (usually boys) don't establish a preference until they're 5 or 6. So it's still early to say whether your daughter will be a righty or a lefty. (And she's most likely one or the other; true ambidextrousness is rare, occurring in only about 5 percent of the population.)

If you want to offer things to your daughter in her right hand, that's fine -- if she's truly a lefty, she will simply switch hands. But I wouldn't recommend discouraging her from using her left hand if that's what she wants. It will only be frustrating and stressful for her, both now and in the future. The convenience of being in the majority will not make up for the difficulty of not being allowed to use the hand she's most comfortable with.

If your daughter does turn out to be a lefty, she's in good company. Architects are more often left-handed than right-handed, and three of our last five presidents are lefties. Multi-gazillionaire Bill Gates is left-handed. So even though there may be hassles associated with living in a right-handed world, lefties seem to do just fine.

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