I’m a right-handed mom with two left-handed kids. When I figured out my two oldest boys were both lefties, I was totally unprepared to help them navigate the left-handed-person challenges they’d face in this life.
In my righty “this-world-was-made-with-me-in-mind” ignorance, I figured scissors and can-openers and garden pruners were one-direction-fits-all kind of tools. I just never really realized the annoyances lefties deal with on a daily basis until I tried teaching my own two left-handed kids.
But, as kids often do, my boys let me know about their frustrations… loud and clear!
Thankfully, through a combination of self-education, inexpensive tools, and easy teaching techniques, we’ve been able to minimize their irritation and maximize success.
The following strategies are the 10 best ways I’ve found to help left-handed kids succeed in homeschooling and all of life.
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Research tips for teaching lefties. Read books like Your Left-Handed Child to understand more about the challenges your kids face as lefties and how to help them overcome those issues.
Educate your kids.
Show them the statistics so they understand that they’re living in a right-handed world. Explain how most tools (can-openers, scissors, etc.) are made with righties in mind. Talk with them ahead of time about places they might run into leftie issues so they aren’t caught off guard on the first day of baseball practice (where no one else bats lefty) or in a lecture hall (where only a few seats have left-handed flip-up writing desks).
Sit on their right.
This way, when you’re teaching them writing, you won’t be bumping their elbow and craning your neck to see what they’ve written. Keep this in mind at the dinner table, too. Seat your righties to the right of your lefties to minimize sibling elbow battles.
Get them REAL left-handed scissors.
A lot of scissors are marketed as being ambidextrous because the thumb and finger holes are the same size – but the blades are still oriented in a right-handed way! (If you’re interested in the details of how this works, check out Wikipedia’s entry on Scissors or this video for a more in-depth explanation). In any case, our true left-handed scissors have been the single best lefty-specific purchase for our boys and they use them all the time. We’ve liked these for little kids and this pair for big kids and adults. But whatever pair you get, make sure they’re really left-handed scissors and not right-handed scissors in disguise!
Use resources bound on the top or right edge.
If you’re a righty, try flipping a notebook upside-down so you’re writing hand is bumping into the spiral binding. Now try writing an entire paper that way. Not fun. I’ve made a point of using looseleaf paper for my kids’ writing assignments or using notebooks and planners that are top or right-bound. It makes a world of difference!
Understand & teach left-handed letter formation.
Let your kids know there are differences in letter formation for righties and lefties. Let them find what’s comfortable for them. For example, many lefties write the horizontal lines in letters like E and T in the opposite direction from righties. This writing mat shows the differences and the way lefties should tilt their page for best results.
Make sure model text is visible.
When you give your kids copywork, make sure the text they’re copying from is above or to the right of the area their hand will be blocking as they write. Check out “Step 3” in this post for an example of this and a *FREE* Pre-K/K alphabet printable that has model text on both the left and the right side of the page.
Model skills facing them, not next to them.
When you’re teaching them to tie their shoes, sit across from them and they can comfortably mirror your movements. If you sit side-by-side, they’ll be trying to copy what you’re doing, which may feel backwards to them. (And, for your right-handed kids, make sure to sit next to them and not across from them for the same reason).
Ask them what bugs them.
Rather than trying to guess what might bother them, just ask! Take a few minutes to look through a site like Anything Left Handed with them and see if anything jumps out as a pet peeve of theirs. Maybe a special lefty protractor is just the thing for them. Or maybe a lefty’s baking set would help ease their frustration in the kitchen. You may even find that right-handed scissors are really the only thing that bothers them, so no other specialty tools are needed. But you won’t know until you ask!
Help them practice with certain right-handed tools.
Help them find ways to adapt or use right-handed products successfully so they’ll be able to make-do with what’s available wherever they are. For example, a left-handed computer mouse is great for home use – where they can leave it and use it regularly. But, unless they’re prepared to carry their mouse with them everywhere they go, it’s probably a good idea to get them familiar with right-handed computer hardware.
Hopefully some of these ideas will help you with your own left-handed kids. And if they ever start dwelling on the negative or seeing themselves as a victim of unfair genetics, check out posts like this one that share advantages of being a lefty!
With only a little extra effort you can give your left-handed kids the support they need to succeed!
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