by Dan Rindler, Child’Space Practitioner, GCFP
Parents are always curious and bring up this question in my Child’Space NYC classes and private sessions. Many parents notice that their baby has a preference to use one hand more than the other and it can be fun to speculate if your baby will be a “righty” or a “lefty.” But, you may be surprised to learn that “handedness” isn’t neurologically set until nearly 3 years of age, and sometimes even later. Infants may begin to show some preference around the time they are moving in and out of sitting independently and crawling but they should still use both hands often. Sometimes, this ambidextrousness continues well past 3 years old before one hand becomes clearly dominant.
Babies may have a preference for using one hand a little more often than the other, but it’s very important that parents don’t cater to that preference. If a parent decides his or her baby is left-handed for instance, and that parent begins putting toys, a spoon, etc. into baby’s left hand only, it can limit the baby’s motor and even cognitive development. Babies need to use both hands for the development of their muscles, coordination and balance. Using only one hand largely helps build connections in the half of the motor cortex which is associated with that side of the body. If you encourage your baby to only to use one hand, you may actually be affecting the development of their brain.
Recommendations: If you notice that your baby uses the same hand very consistently and seems clearly left or right handed, consult your pediatrician, as it may be a sign of an issue. Be sure to engage your baby to touch, reach, grasp, lean, and more on both arms more or less equally. Play traditional baby-games like “This Little Piggy” (its not just for toes!) or pat-a-cake to engage your baby to better sense, feel and move their hands and fingers. If you’ve taken a Child’Space class, you know to use the tapping and other touch techniques of Child’Space Method on your baby’s arms and shoulders when they are trying to reach for a toy. As you play with your baby, place toys in locations that will encourage them to reach both arms in many different trajectories, so that they practice movements outside of those that are habitual for them.
Learn more, or find classes and private sessions to support your baby’s development: www.childspacenyc.com