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Montessori Tips for the Left-Handed Child

Caspar painting, Montessori tips for the left handed child

Do you have a left-handed child? Caspar and I are both left-handed. Caspar's teacher recommended using left-handed pencils. Have you seen them? I was against them at first but due to his teacher's recommendation I knew we had to give them a try. The first pencil she recommended was the Yoropen (Australia here) but Caspar didn't like it at all. We also tried the Stabilo Easyergo left handed pencil (Australia here). The Stabilo is ok, not sure I would recommend it on the price, I didn't find it particularly comfortable but I wonder if it would have been better for Caspar while he was still developing his pencil grip as a 3-5-year-old. 

Parent-to-parent I have a couple of other tips for teaching a left-handed child. 

  • Always allow enough space in their work areas for elbows and arm movements. Ensure there is enough space in between children if doing group activities or if two children are working together perhaps have the left-hander on the left and a right-hander to the right. Older children will work this out for themselves but younger children can use some guidance.  
  • Keep in mind the left side dominance when setting up home spaces. For example, if you put a book basket next to their work table, it may be best for the child to have it on the left side. It's always easier for the child to reach to the left, or pick up things with their left hand. My waste basket is to the left of my desk where right-handers probably have it to the right. Crossing the midline is really important with children but ergonomics should also be considered when setting up spaces. 
  • Consider which side of the child it best to sit on when demonstrating work. This can also depend on the dominant hand of the parent/care-giver. In Montessori, it is most common to sit to the right of the child, but it shouldn't be done automatically.
  • When presenting work, this is especially key with younger children who are going to attempt to copy you exactly, demonstrate the work as if you were left handed. This may require practice and preparation. (I've had to demonstrate things like grating and peeling to Otis who is a right-handed and it's taken me a moment to switch everything over). 
  • When presenting work consider the side the child will work from. When pouring a drink for example, a left-handed child will have the pitcher to the left and the glass to the right, a right-handed child will have it the other way around. 
  • Allow enough space for work materials. You can see Caspar pictured above has his paints on the left of the easel, a right-handed child would put the paints to the right side of the easel. If a child is using reference books often they will put these to the left.  
  • Don't assume which hand the child will use for an activity for the first time. A left-handed child won't necessarily do everything with their left hand. Sit back, wait and observe.
  • Look for neutral materials. There are plenty of scissors that are suitable for left and right handers, try to avoid materials made with a specific right handed grip. 
  • If your child is very young, a toddler or just starting school, you can advise teachers and other care-givers of your child's left-handed preference. However, I have always found it best not to mention it. In a Montessori environment, I know the teachers will take much care in observing my child and making these discoveries independently. Perhaps teachers would like the heads up but while the child is still very young I believe observing the child in the environment is preferred over making prejudgements or assumptions. 
  • Don't panic. As a left-hander, I've found it much easier to teach a left-handed child. But I've also taught a right-handed child and it just takes a bit more care and attention.

You might also like to read How To Help Your Left- or Right-Handed Child Learn at Mosaic Montessori Academy. If you have a left-handed child I highly recommend reading, Your Left-Handed Child: Making things easy for left-handers in a right-handed world by Lauren Milson. The e-book is available at Anything Left Handed.

Please feel free to leave your best left-handed tips! 

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