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Developmental Stages of Hand Dominance

How Handedness Develops

A child develops handedness as their body awareness and movement skills (gross and fine motor skills) increase over time.

There are three main stages of development each child needs to experience and develop through:

1. Symmetrical Movement (Both hands and feet move together)

Clapping - Jumping - Double hand grasping (seen in babies and toddlers)

2. Reciprocal Movement (both sides of the body work together)

Crawling - Walking - Running - Climbing

Crawling has a very important role in a child’s development as it develops good bilateral coordination in preparation for handedness.

3. Asymmetrical Bilateral Coordination (both sides of the body work together doing different things)

Kicking a ball - Using scissors - Open a jar - Threading - Playing a musical instrument

As a child starts to use both hands in this way the ability to cross the midline (taking one part of the body, for example the left hand, across an imaginary line that runs vertically down the body through the middle of the chest and belly button to the right side of the body and vice versa) begins to emerge. It is important that a child can cross the mid-line as a comfortable and spontaneous action to ensure that the dominate hand gets the practice, and experiences a range of tasks, if hand dominance is to develop to the mature stage.

During the first year:

Years 3-5

The mature stage of development in hand dominance is to establish at least one hand for skilled work and for both hands to work together in a complementary way so that a variety of tasks can be accomplished effectively.