Activity of the Day
Establishing Hand Dominance
Target age range: By the age of 5, at the absolute, very latest.
Ok, Melissa, why should I worry about my child pulling beads out of play doh, or using scissor tongs, or playing with shaving cream, or participating in any of the other activities that are shown in this picture?
Great question, all this talk about improving hand strength or finger manipulation in your young child is so that your child can establish hand dominance. Hand dominance is so important because once your child has established dominance they can start to really control and understand the roles of their dominant versus helper hand. They will also be able to really start strengthening and preparing their dominant hand for future demands. Why is this important? This will help with eating (using a fork or spoon), dressing (manipulating all those little buttons and zippers), playing, and ultimately writing.
Children are expected to do some much these days at such a young age. By the end of Kindergarten, you child will be writing both upper and lower case letters, words, and even small phrases. (Remember when Kindergarten was just for play?? I'm pretty sure I just had to know my name in Kindergarten, maybe more??, and even then I'm pretty sure I reversed both my "s"s and was still considered to be of "average" development.) If your child is on the later end of establishing hand dominance then this will all be very challenging for them as their hand simply will not be strong enough to keep up with the work. If severe enough, this can lead to illegible handwriting, a complete dislike of school work and homework, more than what would be standard, and a lower overall confidence in their abilities. I've seen this scenario play out countless times. And while I can't change the curriculum or school expectation, I can tell people to have their children pull beads out of play doh, play with scissor tongs, play with shaving cream, and participate in any of the other activities that are shown in this picture.
Do you have a young child and are unsure if they will be a righty or lefty? For a week or so, place whatever utensil, fork, spoon, crayon, in front of them on the table but in the middle of their body between the right and left hand. If you place the item too far to the left or right they may just go with that side out of convenience. However, if you place the item in the middle of the body then the child has to choose which hand to use, and 9 times out of 10 they will always opt for the hand that will be their dominant hand. Tally which hand they use the most, and you will know if you have a righty or a lefty. Once you feel confident in the handedness of your child, start encouraging tool use in that hand only.