Very young children often use both hands equally. Hand preference in the early years seems to rely on which hand is closer to the desired object; for example, a toddler may reach for a toy on their left side with their left hand because of convenience, regardless of future hand preference.
Most children start showing a clear preference for one hand or the other around age 2 or 3, while some do it as early as 18 months.
But don’t worry if your preschooler doesn’t seem to care which hand she uses to hold her fork — some children remain ambidextrous (using both hands equally) until they’re 5 or 6.
In the past, children who were naturally left-handed were encouraged or forced to use their right hand, mainly because of prejudice against the awkwardness of left-handed writing and the prevalence of ‘right-handed’ utensils. These days, left-handedness is more accepted.
If your child is naturally left-handed, don’t try to force them into using their right hand.
Hand dominance is greatly influenced by genetics. If both you and your partner are left-handed, your child has a 45 to 50 per cent chance of being left-handed as well. (About 10 per cent of people are left-handed.)
Don’t bother trying to influence his/her hand preference. While genetics alone doesn’t entirely explain why someone ends up right- or left-handed, the hardwiring of your child’s nervous system is at least part of the reason. Forcing him/her to use his/her right hand when he’s/she’s really a lefty is unlikely to work in the long run and will only confuse or frustrate him/her along the way.
There are a few things you can do, though if your child eventually shows a preference for using his/her left hand, buy her scissors designed for left-handed users, supply him/her with a “lefty” baseball glove, and make sure to sit him/her in a spot at the table where he/she won’t bump arms with his/her neighbour.