Foundation Stage hand dominance development

Foundation Stage (4 - 5 year olds)

Hand dominance is where one hand has more influence or control than the other. This is sometimes referred to as hand preference, where one hand is preferred or chosen over the other, as it is more reliable in performing a range of skilled activities (handedness).

Children tend to develop hand dominance between the ages of 3-5 years old, for some it may be slightly later and for a few it does not become a subconscious decision until they are 8 or 9 years old. Many children will naturally develop a clear right or left-hand dominance.

Some can develop a mixed dominance (they are not ambidextrous), this is where a child finds they have more control and greater skills for handwriting with their left hand but prefer and display more precise skills with the right hand in tasks such as using scissors.

Foundation Stage (4 - 5 year olds)

During the Foundation Stage children develop their hand dominance skills learning that with one hand they have better and more controlled fine motor skills (worker/dominant hand) while the other hand works best at holding, feeding or stabilising an object (helper/supporting hand).

It is important that children learn that the helper/supporting hand is just as important as the worker/dominant hand in completing tasks, though the level of fine motor skills may not be as precise, it is important that the two hands work well together. It is better that they have one very skilled hand rather than two averagely skilled.

On entering Foundation Stage children will be at very different stages in their hand dominance development:

Hand swapping

Foundation Stage (4 - 5 year olds)

Hand swapping is a natural developmental stage that we expect toddlers and young children to go through.

Initially this is seen in toddlers when a child uses their left hand to pick up or do activities that are on the left-hand side of the body and then they swap to use the right hand for those on the right-hand side of the body. Once a child has developed their bilateral coordination skill for crossing the mid-line (the imaginary line that could be drawn down the centre of their body running down their face, chest and navel) this type of hand swapping decreases as they start to develop a hand dominance for tasks.

However, if a child does not develop the bilateral coordination skill of subconsciously crossing their mid-line point hand swapping may continue.

Hand swapping throughout a task is not necessarily a sign that a child is uncertain of their dominant hand. You may find some children will swap hands through a writing task, especially as the amount of time required for the task is longer than they have been used to. As they naturally develop the required hand strength for longer handwritten tasks the hand swapping will diminish.