When is hand dominance (preference) established?

When is hand dominance established in toddlers

Hand dominance starts to establish around three years, but is firmly established in girls around six years and boys seven years. Dominance develops skills, in other words the more one hand is favored – especially in terms of fine motor control in activities such as brushing teeth, eating, drawing, cutting, building a puzzle, etc., the more skillful the favored hand becomes. A skillful hand is important before a child can write and make sums with ease. A skillful dominant hand helps a child to work faster, neater and to complete tasks.

Crossing the midline

The biggest barrier in establishing hand dominance is a problem with crossing the midline. While the imaginary line between the left and right sides of the body is (1) still being established and (2) the child is still learning to cross this midline, he tends to swop hands and pass crayons, paint brushes, scissors and puzzle pieces from the one hand to the other hand when he has to cross his midline to complete an activity. It is as though there is a high wall dividing the body into a left and right side and that each hand can only operate on one side of the wall.

What can you do?

Encourage children to roll to the left and to the right, because rolling establishes the midline and strengthens both sides of the brain and body. Build an obstacle course and encourage climbing and crawling games, because it stimulates using an arm and a leg on the opposite sides of the body. When both sides of the body are used simultaneously the line separating the left and right sides of the brain is crossed, which makes crossing the body midline easier and helps to establish hand dominance.
You can also encourage children to move HOMO-lateral moving an arm and leg on the same side of the body simultaneously. A HOMO-lateral movement must always be followed by a BI-lateral movement. ‘Bilateral’ means to move both sides of the body at the same time – a right hand and a left leg, followed by a left hand and right leg.

Take a peek at PLAY LEARN KNOW on page 66 for more info about the midline as well as fun activities to cross the midline to establish hand dominance. This book is available to order right here in our online store: Click here.

Written by Dr Melodie De Jager – founder BabyGym® Institute

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