Developing a Dominant Hand

Developing a Dominant Hand

At what age should my child have a “preferred” dominant hand? This is a question many parents ask. It may be helpful to understand that hand dominance may be present as early as age 3-4 but may not be fully established until age 7. Often children at the preschool age are still experimenting with use of both hands. It is important to let this process develop naturally so that dominance can emerge on its own without adult interference. Look for a preference during mealtimes when using utensils, which hand the child starts with to pick up a crayon when coloring, as well as hand preference during gross motor play such as throwing a ball. Once a clear preference has been determined, it is ok to encourage your child to use that preferred hand when coloring or drawing. If after several minutes, they switch hands, encourage them to give their hand a brief rest (“shake, shake, shake, take a break”), then resume coloring with their dominant hand. During less structured play time, use of either or both hands is natural and should not be discouraged.

There are three developmental stages that help a child to develop hand dominance. These stages include:

•Symmetrical bilateral integration – using both arms/hands to perform the same action at the same time such as pushing, pulling, clapping, etc.
•Reciprocal bilateral integration – when one arm is doing the exact opposite of the other arm such as when crawling, or when the arms swing when walking, climbing, etc.
•Asymmetrical Bilateral Integration – when the arms/hands are performing two different actions at the same time such as when stringing beads, screwing nuts and bolts, lacing string, etc. This stage is the beginning of one hand learning to be more of the “helper hand” and one hand becoming more of the “worker or dominant hand”.

Typically children will progress through these three stages of development, naturally, as they mature, over time. Occasionally, however, a child may be delayed in passing through one of these stages due to issues other than just maturity. One reason is that some children may not have enough upper body strength yet to sustain use of just one hand. In these cases, the child likely tends to switch hands continuously when engaged in a task such as coloring due to fatigue or limited endurance. In addition to hand strengthening (see my last blog post for ideas :)….it is equally important to ensure the child has adequate proximal stability and upper body strength. A few fun ideas to help improve proximal stability and upper body strength include:

  • “animal walks”- crab walk, bear walk or wheelbarrow walking (all of which require weight bearing through the arms)
  • Prone on elbows positioning (laying on belly, propped by elbows) during floor play.
  • Wall push-ups- stabilize the feet approx. 18” from wall, position hands on wall at shoulder height and shoulder width apart, then complete sets of at least 12 “push ups” against the wall.prone on elbows

Thanksgiving Language Ideas

Thanksgiving break is coming up and there are some great language-based ideas that you can try at home. Here are some fun themed activities/ideas that are easy to do while getting ready for the holiday.

  • Helping to set the table

    • Give directions containing spatial concepts such as “Put the fork next to the plate”

    • Give 2-step related directions (two steps that are related to each other) such as “Take the cup and put it on the table”

    • Give 2-step unrelated directions (two step that are not related to each other) such as “Put the cup on the table and the spoon next to the plate”

  • Read Thanksgiving themed books such as:

    • I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie

    • One Little, Two Little, Three Little Pilgrims

    • The Night Before Thanksgiving

    • Thank You, Thanksgiving

    • 10 Fat Turkeys

      • You can ask questions, label vocabulary, and identify vocabulary within these stories.

  • Labeling and Identifying (naming and pointing to) all the different food you are making or eating

    • Meats (turkey, ham, chicken, etc.)

    • Vegetables (green beans, squash, corn, etc.)

    • Fruits (apples, cranberries, pumpkin, etc.)

    • Desserts (pumpkin pie, apple pie, cookies, etc.)

Nutrition and Picky Eaters

Healthy eating and nutrition can be difficult topics to tackle with preschool aged children, especially if you have what some may consider a picky eater!  Since children typically develop food preferences within the first six years of life, we wanted to put together some tips for good practice around how to facilitate meal times and introduce new foods.

  • Make food fun! – Be creative with how food is presented.  Use cookie cutters for sandwiches and cut fruits and veggies into different shapes!

  • Always offer new foods – When plating a meal for your child, always put two foods you know they like with one food that may be new!

    • Keep in mind, it can take several times of simply introducing a new food before a child actually tastes it.

  • Give choices – Give children a choice of which new food they want to try at a given moment.  Let them know that if they don’t choose one, you’ll make the choice for them!
  • Avoid forcing the new foods – Just like adults, children have food preferences as well.  If a child is showing a real aversion to a given food, move on to another one that may provide the same or similar nutritional value.

  • Make mealtime a social family event – Sit down with your children and all eat the same foods!  You are your child’s first role model, and children love the positive attention and the captive audience that goes along with family mealtime!!

    • Suggestions around turning off any distracting devices during this time is recommended as it creates the focus that mealtime is about eating and talking together.

  • Below are a list of some books that may be good talking points with your children:

    • I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato by Lauren Child

    • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

    • The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman

    • Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Suess

Indoor Gross Motor Activities

With the weather getting colder it can be hard to get outside to play. Children need daily physical activity regardless of the weather. Below are links to several indoor gross motor games that use items you likely already have around the house. Be creative and let the fun begin!