When babies are born, their motor skills are constantly developing. But before long you’ll notice that your baby consistently favors one hand over the other, making them a “righty” or “lefty.”

But when will you know? That depends on your baby, according to researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In a 2013 study, scientists followed 38 babies from 6 months old until their second birthday, examining which hand the children used to pick up various objects. Their findings showed some babies showed a hand preference as infants and kept it at age 2, while those who had no hand preference as infants eventually preferred one hand to the other by the time they were 2 years old.

Interesting facts about lefties and righties:

  • Hand preference is usually hereditary.
  • Roughly 90 percent of us are right-handed.
  • Boys are more likely than girls to be left-handed.

Lefties may have an advantage in some sports, like baseball, where they stand a bit closer to first base, giving them a better shot at reaching the base in a close play. In basketball and soccer, they can outsmart opponents with the element of surprise, since most players dribble with their right hands or kick with their right feet.

If you’re curious about which hand your baby prefers, watch closely to see which hand your child uses to color, draw, or feed. Keep in mind your baby may not show a hand preference until age 2 or even later. Some children are ambidextrous, switching from left to right and never choosing one over the other.

No matter what your child’s preference is, experts advise against pressuring your child to choose one hand over the other or rushing the process. However, if you notice a clear hand preference early on and a lack of use of the other hand, be sure to bring this up at your child’s next pediatrician visit to rule out any abnormalities.

Takeaways

  • Roughly 90 percent of people are right-handed.
  • Many toddlers show a hand preference by the time they are 2 years old, though some don’t do so until preschool or later.
  • Watching your child do activities may offer some hints about his or her hand preference.
  • There’s no need to pressure your child to use one hand or the other or to try to rush the process.

References

  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. “Ages and Stages.”
  2. Nelson EL, Campbell JM, Michel GF. Unimanual to bimanual: tracking the development of handedness from 6 to 24 months. Infant Behav Dev. 2013 Apr;36(2):181-8.
  3. Papadatou-Pastou M, Martin M, Munafò MR, Jones GV. Sex differences in left-handedness: a meta-analysis of 144 studies. Psychol Bull. 2008 Sep;134(5):677-99.
  4. The Nemours Foundation. “Why am I left-handed?”

Comments

  1. My daughters are clearly, for the majority of things, are right handed; my son does about sixty percent with his left and forty percent with his right, he does his writing print or cursive on same scale, (his printing either hand is terrible, but his cursive seems like he will have nice, “pretty” if you will, legible script, and with both hands), but draws 60 right/40 left the opposite of hand writing-print or cursive. I have noticed that if he has to think about whatever he’s writing he uses left, if it’s from his thoughts he will use his right or left, as with drawing just scaled as before, if thinking/solving uses right, free flow left or right. And there isn’t any time or reason to which hand he might prefer when playing… If learning and you use your right, or you are facing same direction he will mimic you; if you use your left or are facing him he mirrors you so he will use left if your right, and vice versa. He will get frustrated sometimes and I’ll say try your other hand, no matter which he’s using at the time. He usually says, “Oh, yeah, OK!” and then before he tries the next hand I remind him do whatever feels more comfortable for you, and if you want to switch, you can anytime you think you need/want to. I really don’t think he knows what hand he likes using for which activity, and is why he does use one over another at times, and then the opposite next time you look. And may feel the need to use the same hand the other kids are, so I do try to be near kids that are lefties, or amidextrious, if possible.

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    1. That is very interesting!

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  2. My now 4 year old would consistently use both hands for everything up until he started writing and now he uses only his right hand. We really didn’t know if he’d be a righty or a lefty. My 22 month old is totally different and primarily uses his right hand to eat, color and throw balls! I’m not worried about any abnormalities though. My husband and I are both right handed.

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  3. My 6-year-old used to do everything with his left hand when he was little so we figured he would be left-handed like both his grandpas and uncle but as he got older he changed to his right hand instead.

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  4. Super interesting!

    Reply

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