Saturday, 21 April 2012

My little left-hander - parenting a left-handed child

One in every ten of us is left-handed, yet the world is not set up with left-handers in mind.  

I have been discovering this as C is definitely left-handed, though neither of us are.  Suddenly I am needing to be aware of all sorts of issues:

  • Cooking - passing utensils to him in his left hand, passing bowls to him with the spoon handle sticking out on the left, sieves, jug handles, all need to be on the left to that he can do them with his stronger hand.  As he gets older and starts to use the kettle, I need to teach him to rotate it on the stand so that the handle is on the left before attempting to pick it up and pour it.
  • Art and craft - again passing him paintbrushes and things on the left, making sure that if Bug or I are at the easel with him, we are on his right so that we don't bump elbows.  I've just bought him left-handed scissors.  I also try to model painting, gluing, cutting etc. with the implement held in my left hand so that he can see what to do, or I sit opposite him so that I am mirroring what he does.
  • Learning to read and numbers - left-handers need a lot of reinforcement to start reading letters and numbers on the left.  Their natural tendency is to start on the right.  I haven't noticed it much with letters yet because we tend to look at single letters, but when looking at two digit numbers he often says the one on the right first.
  • Handwriting - this is an issue that a lot of left-handers have issues with.  They want to start work on the right hand side of the page.  They want to form letters with their pencil going clockwise, meaning that c and the many letters that are formed by starting with a "c" shape are often reversed.  And when they write with a pen, they need to push it across the page, where right-handers pull it, in some nibbed pens this makes a terrible mess.  In order to see what they are writing many left-handers get themselves into a very contorted position to avoid smudging their work and to allow them to read it.  To solve these problems they need a lot of early practice with seating position, pencil grip, paper position on the table, letter formation and starting on the left of the page.  I have bought C a left handed pencil sharpener (to be held in the right hand while the left turns the pencil away from the body), and a special writing practice worksheet book (there are three of them starting with one for pre-school age, where they are simply learning to form a line on the page, practising their pencil grip and paper position and beginning to form individual letters).
When C gets older there are more things to think about:
  • sport - teaching him to throw or bat
  • IT, making sure that the computer mouse is on the left for him and that the buttons are reversed (there's a special way to do this!)
  • making sure that schools are aware of the issues so that they can accommodate all of the above, but also that they allow space on the right hand side of the board for him to stand when working at the board (teachers often have their board set up for their convenience, and will have a chair or desk in the way on the right); that they think about how they present assessment exam papers, most have the questions on the left and the space for answers on the right, meaning that C will be covering up the questions while writing the answer, so he won't easily be able to refer back across to the question;
  • lots of equipment such as microscopes and microwaves to name just two, have the controls on the right, meaning that they have to reach around to control them.  This includes potentially lethal D&T bench fixed power tools, where not only are the controls on the right, but so is the emergency power off switch!
  • When I'm teaching C to iron I'll need to have the ironing board set up the opposite way around (or stand on the opposite side from him).
  • learning a musical instrument - choice of instrument will be important.
  • I'll need to purchase left-handed can openers, kitchen scissors, and even rulers, because the left hander needs the numbers to start at the other end of the ruler.
It's an absolute minefield, but I'm loving that I'm learning so much from C already.  This is something I've never really thought about before, and now I'm finding out lots.  

My two main sources of information so far have been:
"Your left-handed child" by Lauren Milsom, which I have a copy of, and where I've bought the equipment.


  1. Hi Mel, my husband and I are both left handed and it would seem that my daughter is too which I'm very pleased about. I have to admit that I'd forgotten about a lot of the problems I had as a child and your post has been a good reminder about all I need to think about when raising a left handed child. Fortunately our house is all set up for it as the rest of us are left handed.
    Unfortunately my son appears to be right handed so he might be the one in our family having the most trouble! He's just turned one though so we can't tell for sure.
    Vic (from babycentre

  2. So much to be aware of that I just never thought of before! I used to be a primary school teacher and thought I was reasonably switched on - I made sure left-handers had lefty scissors and sat with their partner on their right, but I didn't even think of half the things I should.