If your child is showing preference using one hand in activities like drawing, reaching for a ball, or using a spoon- they are on their way to establishing whether they are right handed or left handed!
The hand that a child uses to perform most of their daily activities is the child’s preferred hand. If a child has not established a dominant hand yet, you may see them switching between both left and right hands for one-handed tasks, such as using scissors while holding paper. It is never to early to start with some fun fine motor play to motivate your child to establish a dominant hand, and there are many activities that could support this!
When a child is taking part in fine motor activities that requires them to use small objects like tongs and use their pincer grasp (the ‘pinching fingers’), they will find comfort and preference in using one hand over the other.
Try a few games with small pieces that you can get your child to manipulate in their hands, motivating them to use their ‘pinching fingers!’ Here are some ideas that are sure to bring both fun and focus to the table!
Tongs and Pom-Poms!
Children love pom-poms! Why? Could it be there bright colours, textures and sizes? Whatever it is… your child is sure to agree to some play when you bring pom-poms to the table! You have creative freedom here and can use texture
d, sparkled or regular pom-poms.
Take the pom-poms and put them in a small bowl or lay them scattered on the table for messy fun! Use child sized plastics tongs (you can find these in any dollar store) and have the child try and pick up as many as he/she can, placing them into another bowl or area of the table!
This activity will engage those ‘pinching fingers’ while making it comfortable to use one hand as tongs are built to use with one hand only. Whatever hand the child seems to use comfortably, get creative and see what other activities you can make using their ‘pinching fingers’ for practice!
Did you know?
90% of the population is right handed, and only 10% are left handed?
While it is certainly a milestone to establish a dominant hand, this would prove difficult if a child has not yet developed bilateral coordination; the ability to use both right and left sides in a coordinated manner to complete a tasks. There are many daily tasks that require our children to use both hands at once such as: buttoning or zippering a jacket, putting on socks and shoes, or riding a bike. This is why it is important to play games that utilize both hands so that your child can feel confident coordinating between the left and the right side when needed.
There are three main bilateral movements that children go through:
- Symmetrical movements: using both hands to do the same action at the same time (rolling dough)
- Reciprocal movements: alternating movements between the left and ride side with either the hands or feet (climbing up stairs)
- Hand preference/ dominant hand: using one hand as the dominant in a task and the other hand as a support system (cutting)
If you would like to learn more about bilateral coordination, movements and tips, here are two great resources!
Since the first step to a dominant hand is using bilateral coordination, I thought I would give you some fun and focused activities to use with your child today! These activities are sure to get your child alternating between their left and right hands. Remember… it is always more fun when the adult joins in the fun and games! J
The Flip-a-roo and Do Race!
In this activity you will have your jacket and your child(ren)’s jackets a few feet away, laying upside down with the hoods pointing towards you.
Make some DIY Play-Doh together!Line up… Get ready… Get set… GO!
You and your child(ren) will run to the jackets, put your arms in the holes at once and flip the jacket over your head, ending with you wearing your jackets. You will zip or button it up, run back and whoever touches the starting point first wins! You can also do this activity with mittens, hats or other articles of clothing that require your child to use both hands coordinately.
*if your child is not yet at the stage where they can use a zipper or buttons, try using buttoning and zippering activities as a starter before moving to this. A good idea for a starter buttoning activity is dressing dolls with clothes that require the child to do up Velcro or buttons!
Make Play-Doh together!
When making Play-Doh, it requires a lot of mixing, stirring and squishing! There are so many ways that this activity utilizes both the left and the right hand.
2 cups flour,
1 cup salt,
3 tbsp cream of tartar,
2 tbsp oil (vegtable or canola work best)
2 cups boiling water,
food coloring (however many drops you desire!)
Have you or your child pour all of the dry ingredients into a large bowl.
Have your child stir the dry ingredients with a spoon!
To be safe, add the bowling water to the bowl slowly yourself, stirring until the consistency is right.
Once cooled, get you or your child to squeeze a few drops of food colouring out of the tube, and lay the Play-Doh mixture on top of the table.
Have your child kneed and roll the dough using both hands: pushing, rolling, squeezing and finally rolling in to a big ball!
Store in a tightly sealed container for up to two weeks J
Tape the Table!
There are so many fun colours of painters’ tape and washi-tape available all over stores that are guarantee to intrigue children just as much (and may I say sometimes even more) as stickers. Yes- you heard me, as much as stickers! Whether it’s the colours, designs or sticky texture of the tape that children love; there are so many ways to use tape that motivate children to use both hands!
Get any design of washi-tape or painters tape that your child will like. If you want, you can put paper or plastic over the table, but these tapes usually peel off very easily, too.
Have your child take the roll of tape in one hand, peel the tape off with the other and either get scissors and cut pieces of the tape or rip the pieces of tape off. Next, your child can use their artistic creativity to make designs out of the tape pieces on the tabletop!
This activity not only requires them to peel, rip or cut tape but also use their ‘pinching fingers’ to hold the pieces of tape and press them on to the table to make their design!
Welcome to the Tupperware Band!
Sound familiar? Taking Tupperware out of our parents’ cupboards and smacking our hands on them like drums is a fond memory for many of us… why not pass that memory on to your child(ren)?!
You know the drill- gather up bins and bowls of different shapes and sizes and place them upside down on the ground. You and your child can rock away the night making beats with your hands alternating or hitting the ‘drums’ at the same time!
Want to take it a step up? Gather sticks or small items for your child to use both of their hands, grasp and hit the drums with those! Remember… using small items helps develop their pincer grasp!
Not only will these activities allow your child to make a mess, make some noise and play with you- they will be developing and practicing bilateral coordination at the same time! If that is not both fun and focused, I don’t know what is!
by Bryna Stahlbaum, RECE & Undergraduate student at Ryerson University.
Toronto Children’s Therapy Center offers placement opportunity for students in related programs in Toronto.
References: Jones, L. & Lederman, S. (2006). Human Hand Function. Oxford University Press: NY, NY. (147-149). ISBN 1 3 978-0-19-517315-4