Is your child switching hands?

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Switching hands is often seen in young children, who may often swap hands while painting, coloring, or eating with a fork/spoon.
child threading beads

It is not usually a concern when a toddler or young child swaps hands, as they are still learning how to use their hands well together, and trying out what feels right for them.

However, if your Kindergarten child is switching hands, this can really affect their school skills. In order for your child to do well at learning to write, there has to be a dominant, strong hand that becomes specialised at doing the job of controlling the pencil.

If both hands are being used, then your child may well end up with 2 mediocre hands rather than one strong, specialised hand. And mediocre hands do not produce great handwriting!

Why is my child switching hands?

There is usually one of two reasons, and we can ask the following questions to get to the bottom of it:

1) Does your child usually begin fine motor tasks with the same hand, and then swap hands when feeling tired?

You may well see them “shaking out” their tired hand, and then swapping back when they feel more rested!

easy fine motor activity

If this is what your child is doing, then it is probably the fine motor skills that are weak. By developing fine motor skills, you will help your child to gradually build up endurance in the dominant hand, and switching hands should happen less and less.

Read more about fine motor skills and try a variety of easy fine motor activities at home!

2) Or does your child use the left hand when things are presented on the left side and the right hand when things are presented on the right side?

If this is the case, then there may be some delays in crossing the midline. Try some fun activities for crossing the midline if this is a problem for your child.

If you are unsure of your child’s real handedness, then this article has some helpful activities you can do to determine your child’s hand dominance. opens in a new browser window

How can I help my child?

As described above, try fine motor activities to increase endurance and strength in the preferred hand. And encourage midline crossing skills to develop as suggested.

Once you are sure of hand dominance, then gently discourage switching hands. If your child wants to swap because of a tired hand, then give a break from the activity and return to it a few minutes later, to use the preferred hand again! Try a gross motor break, such as these shoulder exercises which can boost fine motor development.

Marissa from Edinburgh made this suggestion: "My child was also switching hands quite a bit. So I made a rule that she had to finish a task with the hand she started with. She soon figured out which hand was her best hand (her right hand) and began completing her tasks with the same hand - no more switching hands!"

Did you like this article on Switching Hands?

Return from Switching Hands to Hand Dominance for more on this topic.

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