Category Archives: Occupational Therapy

Left handed or right handed? Helping children to establish a dominant hand


Is my child left handed or right handed? Advice from occupational therapists in Sydney's northern beaches
As your child grows, he or she will likely begin to show a preference for one hand or the other.

While your two or three year old might switch back and forth between one hand and the other, by the age of four it should be fairly apparent which hand your child prefers.

However, some children do have a more difficult time choosing and exercising a preferred hand. If this sounds like you child, he or she may need help strengthening one hand or the other in order to establish a dominant hand.

What is a dominant hand?

A dominant hand is exactly what you might think it is. Nearly every person prefers to use one hand over the other for most tasks.

This hand is referred to as the dominant hand.

For the vast majority of people, the dominant hand is the right hand. That said, many people prefer to use their left hand and there is absolutely no reason for them to do otherwise.

Why is it important for your child to establish a dominant hand?

Establishing and strengthening a dominant hand is important because it prepares your child for complex tasks such as writing and cutting.

A child who has yet to choose a dominant hand by age 5 or 6 may have trouble learning age-appropriate skills, causing them to fall behind in school and sometimes this leads to feelings of inadequacy and a lack of confidence in the classroom.

While some people do get along just fine without a dominant hand, ambidexterity is not typical.

In general, it is best to encourage children to choose and train a dominant hand rather than allowing them to grow up with two hands that are less able.

How can you help your child strengthen their dominant hand?

This information often leaves parents wondering what they can do to help their child choose and train a dominant hand. There are many ways to go about this. Below we have included the basics so you can get started right away.

Observe first

Begin by observing your child in order to find their preferred hand. Do not encourage your child to use one hand over the other during this period. Instead, stand back and take note of which hand your child uses for eating, grooming, playing, and colouring. After a week or two of observation, you should have a pretty good idea of which hand your child tends to prefer.


Encourage your child to use and exercise the preferred hand. This can be done by offering opportunities for a wide variety of games and activities.

For instance, you might offer your child clay to mash, crayons for colouring, a tea set for pretend play, or a ball and bat for hitting. While your child is playing, remind them to use their “doing” or dominant hand. If their hand becomes too tired, instruct them to take a break rather than switching to the other hand.

Cross the midline

Another way to help your child establish a clear feeling of dominance in one hand is to encourage them to cross the midline. This can be done by placing toys on their non-dominant side and asking them to move them to their dominant side using their dominant hand.

This exercise works well with blocks on one side and a tower on the other, or a puzzle positioned in the same way. Other options include asking your child to clean a kitchen table or the windows, as well as drawing large pictures on a blackboard or whiteboard.

By encouraging frequent use of the dominant hand, you can help prepare your little one for school and the future beyond.

© 2017 Kids First Children’s Services

Need help for your child?

Do you have questions or need help working out if your child is left handed or right handed?

Kids First Children’s Services’ occupational therapists are here to help!
Contact us on (02) 9938 5419 to chat about your child’s needs.

Occupational Therapy for children in Sydney's northern beaches

Pencil Grip and Your Child: Is Handwriting Really Important?

  Your child’s pencil grip might seem like a silly thing to worry about. As long as they get the words on the page, does it really matter? Actually, yes… handwriting does make a big difference, not only to your child’s learning, but also to their ability to ‘show what they know’ at school. Kids… Continue Reading

Pencil Grip and Your Child: Is Handwriting Really Important?

  Your child’s pencil grip might seem like a silly thing to worry about. As long as they get the words on the page, does it really matter? Actually, yes… handwriting does make a big difference, not only to your child’s learning, but also to their ability to ‘show what they know’. Kids First’s occupational… Continue Reading

Good NDIS News: Parents get choices for their children

  In this final part of Kids First’s helpful introduction to the NDIS, our speech pathologists, occupational therapists, psychologists and teachers explain the choices that are available to northern beaches children and families. Read on for all the details … There’s quite a bit of confusion among parents whose children are eligible for the National Disability… Continue Reading

Your child and the NDIS: What is (and isn’t) covered

  Part 3 of Kids First’s helpful series of NDIS facts dives into the issue of services that your child could be eligible for under the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Get the details below … What does the NDIS cover? Many northern beaches families were hopeful that the NDIS would cover the schooling or medical costs… Continue Reading

The NDIS in Sydney’s northern beaches: How to get funding for your child

In this second fact sheet in our NDIS series, the Kids First team explains how families in Sydney’s northern beaches can get and use NDIS funding for their child. There are 2 pathways to the NDIS. If your child is aged under 6, your journey will begin with an NDIS early childhood partner. If your… Continue Reading

NDIS offers support to children in Sydney’s northern beaches

  The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) was introduced to Northern Sydney on July 1 2016, so the Kids First team in Brookvale has developed a series of fast fact sheets to help families navigate this new program. We hope you find our 4 part NDIS series helpful! Many families who have children with disabilities may be… Continue Reading

What is Autism? How can Occupational Therapy help kids ‘on the spectrum’?

  Children living with Autism come in all shapes and sizes and there is no one size that fits all, As the name suggests, there is a range or ‘spectrum’ of characteristics that kids with Autism have, and OTs who specialise in supporting kids who are ‘on the spectrum’ are specially trained to help. What… Continue Reading

Sensory Processing for Kids: A guide for parents

Kids need good sensory processing skills in order to learn and behave well. This easy to read article from children’s occupational therapists in Sydney’s northern beaches is a helpful guide for parents and teachers. Your child’s body is like a car engine, sometimes it runs on high, sometimes it runs on low, and sometimes it… Continue Reading