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  • What Your Toddler's Dominant Hand Says About Him

    Your child already had a dominant hand even while he was still in your womb.
    by Lei Dimarucut-Sison .
What Your Toddler's Dominant Hand Says About Him
PHOTO BY @lightkeeper/iStock
  • I recently gave a 4-year-old relative a coloring book from my stash, seeing that she was beginning to get bored, together with a box of colored pencils. She was thrilled. She flipped through the pages excitedly and quickly picked a color from the box and began to color the drawing with her left hand. I left her alone to enjoy her gift for a few minutes. When I returned, I found that she had moved on to the next image, carefully using bold strokes with it, but this time using her right hand. I was amazed — most of us have one dominant hand, but this girl did not.

    When I pointed it out to her mom, she told me she, too, could write using both her left and right hands. Most people prefer to use one hand more than the other to do tasks, whether that's lifting an object, holding a writing instrument, throwing a ball, or using spoons and forks. It is vital in performing fine motor and gross motor tasks as well.

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    Types of hand dominance

    Most people are right-handed while some are left-handed, but there is a small percentage of the population that can use both hands interchangeably.
    • Right-handedness. These are the people who naturally prefer to use their right hand. Most items that are commercially sold are designed for right-handed people. There 
    • Left-handedness. These are people who tend to use their left hand for most tasks. Product manufacturers are slowly learning to be more inclusive, designing items with left-handed people too in mind. Only 12% of the world's population is left-handed.
    • Mixed-handedness. Some people who can use both hands for different tasks. This is also called cross-dominance where a right hand could be used for writing, and the left hand for holding a drinking glass, etc.

    The right side of your brain controls the left side of your body, and the remaining half of your brain is responsible for the right side. How do people decide which is their dominant hand? How do we end up favoring one side (meaning they are either left- or right-handed)? Think of it as your brain doing delegation really well. Instead of getting the entire brain to work on every task, it assigns only a specific part to keep it working efficiently.

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    How are the two sides of the brain different?

    It is said that the right side of the brain is responsible for abstract ideas, such as music, emotions, art, or perception, as when you're assigning a face to a name, while the left side of the brain is more exact, which is useful when you're writing, studying a science concept, or solving a Math problem. 

    But, as with anything, the side that you use more — that which gets more practice — becomes more adept with the task at hand. Thus, if you keep practicing using your left hand for some tasks, it's possible you will also become good at it over time. 

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    When do we begin to show our dominant hand?

    Believe it or not, as early as the eighth week in our mother's womb, we already have a dominant hand. It has long been believed that the brain is responsible for us being right-handed or left-handed, but researchers believe that the spine also influences which side becomes dominant.

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    Based on ultrasound images of 13-week pregnancies taken in the 1980s, it was apparent that developing babies showed preference on which thumb to suck — the right or the left.

    Is left-handedness a disadvantage?

    In the olden days, being a "leftie" was thought to be a disadvantage as they were discriminated against. In extreme situations, being left-handed was even thought of as evil. Thankfully, people have progressed in their thinking and now know all of these to be untrue.

    How different are the left-handed people from their right-handed counterparts?

    Left-handed people are said to be quick thinkers

    We know that information is processed when the neurons in the brain form connections. An Australian study in 2006 showed that left-handed people tend to make faster connections between the left and right hemispheres of the brain, which then results in faster processing of information.

    Left-handed people may be more adept in sports

    Did you know that about 25 percent of baseball players in the major league are left-handed? One of the reasons they are seen to be more successful in interactive sports is because of their unique orientation — their right-handed opponents possibly find it confusing. The other reason left-handed people excel in interactive sports such as baseball is that they have a faster reaction, which may be related to the study mentioned above.

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    Lefties are said to be more creative than right-handed people.

    The simple explanation for this is that left-handed people are mostly governed by the right side of the brain, which is associated with creative thinking. There is research that shows lefties are better at coming up with several different solutions to one problem, which indicates creativity. Some also say that since lefties are often outnumbered, they see themselves as non-conformists, which in turn helps them develop their individuality that translates in their work.

    Lefties may be prone to having more negative emotions.

    It is said that lefties have a harder time processing their feelings than their right-handed counterparts. A study suggests that left-handed people have an imbalance between the left and right hemispheres of their brain when it comes to their feelings and moodiness. If you can't seem to move on right away after an upsetting episode, you can blame it on your left dominant hand.

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    Lefties may have a successful career in politics.

    It could just be pure coincidence, but four of the last seven presidents of the United States are left-handed: Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. It was also rumored that Ronald Reagan was also born a leftie but was converted by school teachers when he was young. 

    Another interesting observation related to left-handedness and politics is that people tend to associate it with "bad" as they associate right-handedness with "good. However, when watching TV or viewing photos, which present mirror images, being left-handed works for politicians because they appear to gesture using their right hand.

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