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Picture this: You want to start teaching your kid how to write or how to draw. You’ve gotten all the supplies ready - the pens, the paper, the colours, even the apron. But then you realise something. You realise that you don’t know which hand your little one prefers to use. Now, you don’t want to force your child to use a certain hand, or influence him/her to use one hand or the other. So what do you do? How do you find out which hand to use? How do you find your child’s dominant hand?

The first thing to keep in mind is that babies tend to have no particular hand preference in the first few months. This only starts to develop at about 9 months old and may not be permanent at this stage. Permanent preference develops around the age of 2 or 3 or even as late as the age of 5 or 6 years. Keep in mind that some children may remain ambidextrous for their entire lives.

Hand dominance or preference is greatly affected by genetics. A child is more likely to be left handed if he/she has both left handed parents, or he/she is more likely to be right handed if he/she has both right handed parents. This is because the dominant gene is then left/right handedness respectively, which is more likely to be inherited by the child than the recessive gene of preference for the other hand.

Generally, trying to change hand preferences doesn’t work. What it does instead is that it causes frustration in the child because his/her brain is telling him/her one thing and social influences are saying something else. Remember that only about 10% of the total population is left-handed, out of which more than half are males.

Most prominent indicators of handedness early on are not tasks which require intense physical effort, as one would presume, although they are also indicators. They are in fact, the everyday tasks that a child does such as eating food or reaching for objects or activities involved in grooming. When it comes to intense physical activities, a child may use either hand, even the hand which he/she does not have a preference for. Other indicators involve the way your toddler plays with toys. They will tend to move it into their dominant hand when they’re inspecting it closely.

There are also some reports which say that if a child tends to stir things clockwise, then that child is more likely to be right handed. Later on, a child will tend to use his/her dominant hand for complex and/or strenuous activities. 

Keep in mind that at very young ages, kids like to experiment when it comes to hand preference, which is why it may become futile for parents to try to judge hand preference and dominance at that stage. Wait until your child is a few years old and see which hand is preferred for the completion of most tasks, and you’re more likely to get an accurate answer. Also remember that there’s nothing wrong with having dominance of one or the other hand. It generally just means that one or the other hemisphere of your child’s brain is used more. There are no conclusive findings about the relationship between handedness and intelligence, so there’s not need to worry!

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