Your dominant hand is the hand you’re more likely to use when doing delicate motor tasks like writing, brushing your teeth, or catching a ball.
When people say they are right-handed, they say their right hand is dominant. However, you can be right-handed, left-handed, or ambidextrous – which means you don’t favor either hand.
What is your non-dominant hand?
Your non-dominant hand is your ‘less preferred’ hand. It’s the one that isn’t your dominant hand.
If you’re right-handed, then your left hand is your non-dominant hand.
If you’re left-handed, then your right hand is your non-dominant hand.
Often, when we use our non-dominant hand for tasks like writing, our movements are clumsier and harder to control. Try writing with your non-dominant hand – your handwriting will become much messier than your dominant hand!
Are there benefits to using your non-dominant hand?
Now that we know the answer to ‘what is your non-dominant hand?’, let’s look at some of its benefits.
When you use your non-dominant hand for writing or tying your shoelaces, it might feel like you tried using your dominant hand for the first time because you’re teaching that hand and your brain a new skill.
We rely on our dominant hand for many activities, which often means our non-dominant hand gets left behind. However, practicing those activities using the non-dominant hand can build strength and skills.
Some creative writers like to use their non-dominant hand when writing so that they can focus on getting their ideas out rather than making sure that their handwriting is neat. So, sometimes using your non-dominant hand can help you be more creative!
It can also be beneficial to use your non-dominant hand in everyday tasks to help build fine motor skills in that hand. So why not try doing some of these daily activities with your non-dominant hand?
- Brushing your teeth;
- opening a jar;
- pouring drinks;
- cleaning dishes;
- using cutlery;
- washing your body;
- using your computer mouse.
At first, using your non-dominant hand for these activities will feel awkward. But, in the long run, it helps to strengthen your muscles and fine motor skills.
What is the difference between a dominant and a non-dominant hand?
Your dominant hand has faster and more precise movements and better control over fine activities. The non-dominant hand might be less comfortable and harder to do controlled movements with.
The muscles in the dominant hand are more potent and easier to use, whereas they’re less developed in the less dominant hand.
A dominant hand is about 10% stronger when gripping things than a non-dominant hand. It might be genetic or might come from years of preferred use.
How do you know which hand is dominant?
Most people can tell which hand of theirs is dominant simply by feel.
Using your dominant hand is more comfortable, and it’ll likely feel easy to do specific tasks.
It’s also more likely that you’ll use your dominant hand for instinctual or fast-paced reactions. For instance, if someone threw a ball at you when you weren’t expecting it, you would probably react with your dominant hand to try and catch it.
However, it’ll depend on the task you’re doing. For example, you might prefer to use your right hand with some functions but favor your left with others.
If you’re trying to work out a child’s dominant hand, pay attention to which hand they instinctually use when using a spoon to eat or draw with or even which foot they kick a ball with.
At what age should a child have a dominant hand?
Following the updated Development Matters Guidance and Early Years Outcomes for EYFS children, children are expected to prefer a dominant hand between the ages of three and four.
This non-statutory guide gives practitioners an overview of how children’s development is expected to progress from birth until Reception. Children are likely to start showing this between 22-36 months, and from 40 months onward, a preference is expected to be more pronounced.
A dominant hand should naturally emerge as young children grow and start doing more gross and fine motor activities like writing, coloring, and playing.
It may take until age six for one to become more apparent, and younger children may still be experimenting as their bodies grow and develop. Like all the skills they are learning, children will pick them up at their own pace, and one child may be very different from another.
What makes a person left-handed or right-handed?
Only 10% of the population are left-handed, and under 1% are ambidextrous! So what makes people favor their left hand over their right?
Scientists currently believe that left-handedness comes from your genes.
The combination of genes you inherit from your parents determines how your body and brain develop.
The right side of the brain controls the left hand, and the left side of the brain controls the right hand.
With just the right combination of genes, the brain develops to favor either side, and for lefties, the right side develops more to make their left-hand dominant.
It’s rarer to be left-handed because the gene for right-handedness is more common in the population, so more people are right-handed.
How can I support left-handed children?
As left-handedness is less common, daily objects may be harder to use for left-handed people.
Objects like scissors, can openers, and even notebooks favor right-handedness. So in a classroom, it’s essential to try and make worksheets and objects accessible for people who aren’t right-handed.