Teaching right versus left is not an easy process. Studies report that children learn right and left best when it is compared to their own bodies. Using your child’s hand dominance is a great starting point. If you don’t know your child’s dominant hand, observe which side is used most frequently for daily activities such as eating and brushing teeth. To detect leg dominance, try rolling a ball on the ground in a straight line and see which leg is used most frequently to kick the ball.
Some activities that can help your child develop an understanding of right and left are:
- Singing the Hokey Pokey (ex. Put your right leg in and shake it all about).
- Tickling or squeezing the child’s dominant side. For example, if your child is right side dominant, say “raise your right hand” and tickle them underneath!
- Try implementing right and left during daily activities. For example, say: “we are crossing the street and I want to hold your right hand.” Make sure to squeeze their hand so they get that gentle input. Another example is during dressing. Say to your child, “put your right hand in” etc.
- Learning right and left is challenging, so be patient!
- Activities that target right/left concepts should follow or coincide with intense movement activity and “heavy work” such as wheel barrow walking (to heighten body awareness).
- Use your own body to demonstrate right and left, but make sure to stand next to the child (and not opposite).
Submitted by: Sarah Small, Occupational Therapy Student