My four-year-old is very obviously left-handed. We've suspected that he's left-handed for a couple of years now, but now that he's starting to learn to write, it's obvious. Every time he tries to write with his right hand, you can just tell that he's uncomfortable, but when he switches to his left hand, he holds his pencil more naturally and is able to write and draw. His father and I are both right-handed. I certainly don't hold my pencil correctly, and I don't even know how to correct my son's pencil grip because it's all backwards to me.

So, I need thoughts/recommendations on how to help my left-handed kid with his fine-motor skills when it's all backwards to me. If you are left-handed, any skills that you found especially difficult to learn because they were designed by and for right-handed people (my mom is left-handed and points out that spiral-bound noteboooks are the bane of her existence) would be good to know, or if you're a right-handed parent of a lefty any tricks or pointers you have would be greatly appreciated.

4 Answers 4


At this age, you need not focus on "the right way" of holding a pencil, and fine-motor skills yet. It is recommended to buy big pencils/pens which he can hold more easily. Making him use too small and thin pens now may in fact harm the development of his fine motor skills, making his muscles tense. It is better to defer this until the age of 6-8 when his nervous system is developed enough.

I am left handed myself, as is my elder daughter. As Morah noted, finding a left handed scissor was most important for me, but in fact I got to know about the existence of such things only as an adult. Still I managed to grow up without big traumas :-) My daughter, as myself, does use her right hand in some situations fluently. I think the only really important areas are drawing and writing, in practically all other areas it is fairly easy to learn to use either hand, depending on the situation.


Left-handers make all sorts of adaptions. When writing, I've seen many left-handed Americans curve their hand and arm around so that they can 'see' what they've just written. I never picked up that trick, instead clutching my pen or pencil in more of a fist grip than the 'accepted' grip which holds the pen between the thumb and first two fingers. It lets me see the previous word or so, if I need to. To me the 'accepted' grip doesn't seem to allow that, unless you start curving your hand or tilting the paper.

It'll all work out. My third-grade teacher tried to get me to switch. I just changed when she was watching, and went back to what worked for me when she wasn't!

As a child gets older, finding pencils that have harder leads or pens that dry quickly may be useful.

The best ambidextrous scissors I've ever found are IKEA's. They used to have 3 sizes bound in a pack. As long as the scissors blades are tight together when closed, they should be usable in either hand and I've found many pairs that work fine for everyone.

In the US, I've bought notebooks that are spiral bound on the right and used them through university. There are also top-bound notebooks, including stenographer's pads.

I found some hand skills (like crocheting) because I'm mirroring the teacher. Otherwise, you have to do a 180-degree rotation of what you're seeing to apply it!

I mouse left-handed, but leave the buttons set for a right-handed mouse. It horribly confounds any right-hander who tries to use your computer! You can't use the very ergonomic mice, of course, with this technique.

Kitchen gadgets are the worse. Knives with the serrated side designed for a right-hander, controls right-oriented, and so on.

Try to have a child do a little work right-handed, like with loose-bladed scissors, just so he or she can do it relatively easily.

  • This is all totally true, but be aware because some of the alternatives they find on their own, like the curved arm and wrist, can form bad habits that can create joint issues down the road if they find themselves in some sort of activity that means a lot of writing. These adaptations can also significantly slow them down. I would not stress over it, but I would look into Handwriting Without Tears (link in my answer) before he starts into Kindergarten. Jul 12, 2012 at 1:47

I am left handed as are two of my children. I found that teachers know how to deal with left handedness. You say she is holding her pencil correctly in his left hand? This is amazing for a right or left handed child at this age. The only thing I can think of is be sure he has left handed scissors. Other than that, he is normal and doesn't need you to do anything special at this age. If he gets into knitting or crocheting or things like that you will need a lefty to teach him. And if he likes to peel potatoes and carrots the appropriate peeler is a must. Other than that don't worry, he will be fine.

(please teach him to use the mouse of a computer with his right hand! It will make his life much easier and he CAN do it!)

  • My mom said the exact same thing about the mouse! He seems comfortable holding his pencil in his left hand, I don't know that I would call the grip "normal" but since I don't hold a pencil correctly and I have beautiful handwriting, I tend to be more flexible on this than some others. At any rate, he is able to draw some, color, and write a few legible letters with his left hand that he is not at all able to do using his right hand. Thank you for your response, though! It makes me feel better :-D
    – Meg Coates
    Feb 16, 2012 at 16:28
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    Heh, I write with my right hand, but have always used a computer mouse with my left. I draw on chalkboards/whiteboards with my left as well. I met the most fascinating left handed woman in New Orleans in '04. She wrote upside down & backwards. As in, she started at the bottom right of the paper and then worked her way to the left and up. I was absolutely fascinated. Then she'd just turn over the paper if she wanted to read it.
    – Darwy
    Feb 16, 2012 at 20:55
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    I'm right-handed, but when the carpal tunnel is acting up, I have no problem switching my mouse to my left hand. I really wouldn't worry about that part.
    – Martha
    Feb 21, 2012 at 6:42

Handwriting without tears is a FABULOUS program that incorporates information for the teacher about how to help lefties use adaptations that are not going to create bad posture and the consequences that go with it. It also has practice pages designed in such a way that lefties are always able to see a sample letter which is NOT true for most handwriting programs. It isn't cheap but especially with a leftie in the house, its probably worth it. Their Website (I have no affiliation, but have used it and had better success with it than with other programs)

Shoe lace tying can be a little tricky too so just expect that to take a little longer and go a little slower with it. My left-handed dad taught me (a righty) so I actually tie mine backwards even though some how he learned it the "right" way. He teases me about it, but they stay tied. My left-handed students tended to get this skill a little later unless they had a lefty parent that helped them learn.

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