How to Teach an Ambidextrous Child to Write

Ambidexterity occurs in approximately 1 percent of the population.

Occasionally, a child will show signs of ambidexterity, which means that the child has equal skills with both hands, states the PODAR Early Childhood Institute. (ref 1) Help your child choose which hand she wants to use to write. Although she might not have hand dominance, she still needs to decide which hand she wants to use for writing. This choice may change randomly depending on mood or circumstance, but she must still make a conscious decision each time regarding which hand she will use to hold a pencil or pen.

Position yourself directly in front of your child so you face each other squarely. Hand your child a pencil so the pencil sits precisely at your youngster’s midline -- the halfway point between her left and right sides.

Wait to see which hand your child extends to accept the pencil. Whichever hand he chooses is the hand your child wants to use for writing at this time.

Place handwriting paper in front of your child on the side that corresponds with the hand she chose. For example, if your child chose her left hand, place the paper in front of the left side of her body. If your child chose her right hand, place the paper in front of the right side of her body. Adjust the angle of your child’s paper to make it parallel to the forearm of her writing hand, advises Occupational Therapist Lisa Marnell, with the Handwriting Help for Kids website.

Check your child’s grip of the pencil. With the tripod grip, your child should place his thumb and index finger on the pencil while the third finger helps stabilize it. With the quadropod grip, your child should use the thumb, index finger and third finger on the pencil, while stabilizing it with the fourth finger. If your child is writing with his left hand, watch for undesired grips and correct them if you see them. You might notice a “hooked grasp,” in which your youngster places his wrist above the writing so he can see his letters. You might also see an “ulnar grasp,” in which your child places all four fingers on the pencil and uses the fifth finger to stabilize it. Reposition your child’s paper properly on his chosen side, parallel to his corresponding arm and correct the grip. With practice, your child should become comfortable with a correct grip.

Show your child how to have the helping hand steady the paper and keep it from moving.

Introduce capital letters to your youngster first, focusing on one letter every day so your child learns the basics of letter construction. Instruct your youngster to always start letters at the top and move down with big lines, small lines, big curves and small curves. Watch as your child writes letters and offer encouragement and positive corrections to teach the skills of handwriting.

Move to lowercase letters after introducing all capital letters.

Things You Will Need

  • Pencil
  • Handwriting paper

Tip

Children usually display preferred hand dominance by approximately 4.5 to 6 years of age, according to Occupational Therapist Marianne Gibbs, with the Write Out of the Box website. Over time and with practice, your youngster will likely settle on one hand or the other as his preferred hand for handwriting, but this should be his preference.