The preferred hand is the hand that we regularly use in complex and fine manual activities requiring a large degree of stability and accuracy, such as writing, and the hand that we use in everyday activities like opening a door with a key, using a fork and knife, or brushing our teeth. The establishment of the preferred hand in children is a process with a significant impact on their lives.
You can already see an orientation towards a preferred hand amongst very young children, but between the ages of four and a half to five and a half we expect to see a clear tendency towards a dominant hand. This becomes relevant in two ways:
The preferred hand should be developed and "professionalized” in activities that require precision and control. But of no less importance is the development and professionalization of the “helping hand" in its role as the supporting and assisting hand. In cutting, for example, the helping hand is needed for more complex operations than the preferred hand, which is “only” required to open and close the scissors.
How to develop the preferred hand:
The body is divided by an imaginary line into two sides. The preferred hand develops during activities that involve the crossing of this line, when the right hand crosses the midline of the body to the left side and the left hand crosses the midline of the body to the right side.
Place a box with matchsticks (not the kind that light up) in the right-hand corner of a table, and a wad of plasticine (clay) in the left-hand corner. Ask the child to take one match in her right hand and stick it in the plasticine (clay) in the left-hand corner, and continue with as many matches as are appropriate for the child’s abilities. Next, ask the child to pull out the matches from the plasticine (clay) and return them to the box in the right-hand corner with her left hand.
Important notes to increase efficiency in this activity:
It is important during this type of activity that the child keeps her back as straight as possible to allow for the midline crossings.
One of the most interesting products of the development of the preferred hand is a child's ability to orientate herself with regards to directions. Now, when she needs to know which direction is right and which is left (for example when writing) she can just ask herself, "Which hand do I write with?"