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Question: What makes my child right or left handed?

Doctor Woolfson's Answer:

Hand preference is not present at birth. When a young baby starts to explore the world with her hands, she shows no preference for one over the other and is able to use them with equal competence. It is only towards the end of the end of the second year that toddlers begin to show a preference for using one hand instead of the other, but you may find even at this age your child uses one hand for months at a time then switches comfortably to the other. Hand dominance, however, is nearly always firmly established by the age of three or four years, although there are a few children who remain ambidextrous (able to use both hands competently) throughout their life.

Psychologists are unable to say where hand preference comes from – some claim it is innate while others claim it is learned. If parents are concerned about their infant’s possible left-handedness, they can gently encourage her - up to the age of 12 or 15 months only - to use her right hand. But that does not mean pressurising her into using her right hand all the time. Rather it means providing opportunities for their infant to use her right hand, for example by handing things to her right side. After that age, the choice of hand should definitely be left with the infant.