How to help your left-handed child

Being left-handed doesn’t mean junior is at a disadvantage. Learn ways to help him cope with his unique quality.

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Ten per cent ― this is how many of the world’s population are left-handed. As a left-hander and a member of the minority, your mini-me will need to learn how to adapt in a right-handed world.

Right-handers will find it tough to imagine that even the simplest things can prove challenging to our leftie pals. For instance, Irene Low’s left-handed preschooler used to struggle to tap his card when entering the MRT station. Says the 34-year-old, “All the EZ-Link readers are positioned to the right of the gantry. So, I had to remind him a few times to place his card in his right pocket instead of the left to make things easier.”

Also, basic etiquette like using the right hand to shake someone’s hand may not come naturally to your left-handed child. Also, game controllers are designed for people who are right-handed.

Sara Yeow, an occupational therapist with KIDZ Pediatric Occupational Therapy Consultants, notes while some toddlers may show their handedness ― the tendency to use either the right or the left hand more naturally than the other ― as early as age 1. Others may only start favouring one hand at age 2 and 3 and more confidently by 4 or 5 years, when they start writing. Some of the signs that may point to your kid’s left-handedness include:

- Approaching or receiving objects with their left hand, even though the item may be on their right.

- Preferring to throw or catch a ball with their left hand.

- Stepping up or down a ladder or stairs with the left foot first.

- Pressing down on the paddles of a bike with the left foot first.

“Training a child to be ambidextrous when he or she is not neurologically so, will just cause the brain to be confused and [cause] the two hemispheres of the brain [to be] competing.”

While the best solution may be to either forbid your kid from being left-handed by forcing him to use his right hand or become ambidextrous — ability to use both the right and left hands — don’t. Yeow explains, “Training a child to be ambidextrous when he or she is not neurologically so, will just cause the brain to be confused and [cause] the two hemispheres of the brain [to be] competing.”

Worse, Yeow points out that learning to become ambidextrous may also affect your child’s coordination. “This may cause an overall decline in processing, memory functions and tasks that require sequencing.”

So, here are useful pointers to help your child overcome the challenges of being a leftie…

Challenge #1: Cutting with scissors

WHAT When a left-hander uses a pair of scissors meant for right-handers, they will need to push the thumb and their index finger together in an unnatural manner in order to snip something. Often, such cuttings are not as clean as if they’d used left-handed scissors ― while also leaving unsightly marks on their hand.

SOLUTION While most manufacturers claim that their products are suitable for everyone’s use, it’s better to get your child a pair of left-handed scissors. Left-handed scissors will allow him to be able to see where he needs to cut. The scissors won’t just rest more comfortably around his thumbs, the blades will perform as they are supposed to.

Tips on how to handle the challenges of tying his shoelaces…next!

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Challenge #2: Writing

WHAT Left-handed writers usually resort to holding their pens in a hooked grasp — placing their hands above the lines — to see what they have written. This places unnecessary strain on their wrists. Instead of pulling the pen as right-handed individuals do, your left-handed kid will also need to push it as he writes. This will cause his pen to dig into the paper with greater force, which smudges his handwriting.

SOLUTION If you are a right-handed parent, try writing with your left hand to take note of the challenges your child may be facing. You should also ease up on unnecessary rules like making him ensure that his writing paper is in a straight and vertical position. Yeow advises, “Ensure that the bottom of the paper is tilted to the left — the top corners of the paper tilted to the right — so that the child’s body posture is stable for more effective writing.”

“Parents need to be mindful not to influence the left-handed child to switch to the right hand out of ‘convenience’.”

So that he stops using the shooked grasp, guide him to write with his hand positioned below the line instead. This way, his wrists will also be in a more comfortable position. Yeow adds that when junior is in Primary school, using a ball-point or other quick-drying pens and those with suitable grips can reduce smudging. You might want to consider asking his teacher if it’s possible for him to sit on the left side of the table, so that he won’t bump into his friends.

Challenge #3: Doing sports

WHAT Some racket sports — like tennis or badminton — may be more challenging for a leftie. This is because of how he needs to hold the racket, as well as the posture and position he has to adopt.

SOLUTION Yeow advises that you encourage your child to make his own choices and also experiment with how to hold the equipment. “It is important to note that the hand we use for writing tasks may not necessarily be the same hand we use to do sport.”

Challenge #4: Tying one’s shoelaces

WHAT As a left-hander, your preschooler tends to make the mistake of looping his laces opposite to how you do it.

SOLUTION Using a mirror when you teach your child can help him spot his errors. Yeow says, “Guide your child to look at the mirror, so that they get visual feedback on the sequence of tying.” If not, sitting opposite your child as you are demonstrating may also do the trick.

Finally, Yeow stresses that it is far more important that parents learn to respect their kids’ preferences. “Parents need to be mindful not to influence the left-handed child to switch to the right hand out of ‘convenience’.” You can also help by supporting them, such as by getting the right tools, especially since their school may not have them.

Photos: iStock

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