Many years ago, people believed that it was important for all children to be right handed. They used to go as far as tying the left hand behind the child’s back so that she was forced to use only the right hand. As can be imagined this caused enormous problems in the development of naturally left-handed individuals. Dominance (being left or right handed) is something that you are born with – it is genetically pre-determined. So trying to change something that we are born with and that we are meant to be can only cause problems.
Everyone has a dominant eye, ear, hand and foot, and the dominance is not necessarily on the same side. Although it takes a child several months to years to show dominance, a clear dominance is usually evident by the age of 2 years and definitely by the age of 5 years.
Midline crossing is the ability to work across an imaginary line that separates the right and left halves of the body. This is important as it shows mature communication between the right and left halves of the brain. If a child is unable to cross his midline, he may have difficulty with developing a dominant hand. This is because they tend to use their right hand when things are placed on the right side of their body and their left hand when things are placed on the left side of their body. Delayed development of a dominant hand can result in immature fine motor skills and the delayed development of handwriting. As a baby, we want to encourage the use of both hands for bilateral activities, this is the ability to coordinate the left and right sides of the body, and to cross the midline as it indicates that both sides of the brain are working well together and sharing information efficiently and the development of dominance.
A baby of 6 – 8 months should show bilateral use of both hands, such as holding her bottle and bringing a toy to her mouth. Once your baby can use both hands together, she will start to cross her midline. Your baby should be able to cross over to the left with her right hand to grab a toy and vice versa, she should also be able to touch her toes. These are very basic examples but are nonetheless important to the development of your child.
Insofar as being left or right handed, it does not matter, being one or the other does not make a greater or better person. Allow your child to develop naturally and provide as many opportunities for bilateral hand function and midline crossing as possible.