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Hand swapping

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.

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.

Year 3 (7 - 8 year olds)

By the time the majority of children enter Year 3 they are secure in their hand dominance and their preferred hand for handwriting. However, a few children may still be insecure or uncertain of which is their dominant or preferred hand for handwriting. These children will require extra support to help them acquire this development knowledge/skill.

Year 4 to 6 (8 - 11 year olds)

It would normally be expected for children in year 4 and upwards to be secure and understand which their preferred hand for handwriting is, whether they are a left or right-handed writer. For a few it may not yet be a subconscious decision, but it will come with time and patience.

Key Stage 2 (7 - 11 year olds)

Key Stage 2 hand dominance development

Year 3 (7 - 8 year olds)

By year 3 we would normally expect hand swapping issues to have been addressed or appropriate intervention being used to support the child. However, in the first term of year 3 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. If it carries on into the later part of the first term then further investigation is required.

Year 4 to 6 (8 - 11 year olds)

Hand swapping is not something we would normally expect to see in year 4 and upwards as a persistent issue. Yes, there will be times when a child will put down their pencil and rub or shake their hand due to fatigue/tension but at this stage they will rarely swap hands to continue the task. If hand swapping throughout a handwritten task is a persistent act then further investigation is required.