A common question I get is, “At what age should my child have a hand preference?” Many experts agree that a consistent hand preference begins to emerge between ages 2 and 4 years, and that most children entering Kindergarten (age 5-6) have established a definite hand preference for using a pencil and scissors. Children who don’t have a strongly specialized left or right hand for a specific task may struggle to carry out fine motor tasks, such as self-care tasks, cutting neatly on a line with scissors, or handwriting.
We must encourage children’s use of hands in play and daily activities where two hands are performing different jobs in order to develop hand dominance. Presenting toys and tools at the midline (belly button and desktop levels) allows young children to use the preferred hand to grasp and manipulate the object spontaneously, which reinforces hand dominance acquisition.
The following are ways to help encourage hand dominance:
• Screwing on/off lids from jars
• Pushing a car or train around a track
• Using household tools
• Ball play
• Play dough
• Lacing cards