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Teaching Lefties Writing, Drawing & Basic Skills: Working With Left-Handed Children and Overcoming Obstacles

Nearly ten percent of the population is left handed, and according to Left-Handers International, boys are at fifty percent more likely to be left handed than girls. There’s no reason for right handed people to understand the frustrations facing lefties every day, unless they have left-handed children.

Writing Skills for Left-Handed Children

Everything about the way writing is set up can frustrate a left-handed child, from the armrest on the desk and metal spiral on the edge of the notebook, to the pencil lead leaving a mark on the edge of the hand as it smudges what has just been written. Even the markings and words on the pencils appear upside-down when held in the left hand.

There are ways to help left-handed children learn to write that will create fewer frustrations, including:

  1. Request a desk with a left-side armrest or no armrest at all.
  2. Be aware that lefties have to push the pen or pencil, which may fatigue the hand. Help the left-handed child find a comfortable position without using all of the fingers. Allowing the forefinger to control the writing, the child is less likely to develop hand cramps.
  3. Work with the child in finding a relaxed position to write, rather than the cramped position favored by many left-handers. The earlier the child develops a comfortable position, the more likely she is to stay with it.
  4. Soft pencil grips may help prevent fatigue.
  5. Instead of chastising a child for mirror-writing, or writing in reverse which is more natural for the leftie, gently correct her and encourage her to start from the left side of the page.
  6. Place the paper slightly on the left and slant it about ten degrees clockwise so she can see what she has written, and she isn’t as likely to hook her hand.
  7. If possible, provide the child with loose paper or notebooks with the spirals at the top rather than on the left side.

Drawing Skills for Left-Handed Children

Art teachers often become frustrated with left-handed children because of the child’s propensity to start on the opposite side of the paper from the right-handed children. Talk to the teacher and explain the differences. Because there is no right or wrong with where to start drawing, encourage the child to find his most comfortable methods. When setting up the art supplies, place them in the most comfortable position for easy access. Sometimes it helps to sit across the table from him for a mirror image, rather than sitting next to him, which may seem backward.

Basic Skills for Left-Handed Children

Like it or not, left-handed children have to learn how to get around in a right-handed world. Everything from table settings to cutting with scissors can be a challenge. Here are some helpful hints for parents to start with:

  • Encourage the child to find a place at the very left of a table during a meal.
  • Provide left-handed scissors to prevent bruising the thumb.
  • When teaching the child to cut with a serrated knife, find one that is serrated on both sides to prevent accidents from having to apply more pressure on the meat.
  • If possible, move the computer mouse to the left side of the keyboard. However, if this is a family computer that is used by right-handed people, be patient while the child adapts.
  • When teaching any new skills, if possible, face the child for a mirror image. This keeps him from having to reverse all instructions in his mind.
  • Look for equipment designed for left-handed children, including scissors, golf clubs, baseball and softball gloves, coffee mugs (with the graphics facing the leftie) and electric screwdrivers when they get older.
  • Encourage other family members and friends to give the child some space on the left side. It’s natural for most people to do this on the right side, and when the leftie bumps people with his left elbow, it makes him appear clumsy.

Celebrate Left-Handedness

The most important thing parents can do to help their left-handed children is to encourage them to be who they are and celebrate every success. Forcing them to use the other hand is frustrating and likely to lead to undesirable habits. Point out that many famous people, including presidents, artists and actors have been left-handed.