It’s International Left Handers Day, and the one in 10 of us in the UK who are left-handed are sharing our tips and horror stories about using pens, scissors and other things in this relentlessly right-handed world.
Being left-handed means your left hand is naturally more dominant than your right. It’s usually used to refer to which hand you use to write with, but left-handers can also use their ‘south paw’ for a range of other activities, such as sports. Most babies show a preference for one hand by around 18 months old.
Anything Left Handed, which has a free guide for the parents of left-handed children, says its most popular products for primary school kids include left-handed scissors, pencil sharpeners, rulers and fountain pens.
We asked parents and left-handed adults for their tips on how to make life easier for left-handed kids.
Writing is the big one. When a child writes with their left hand it can create smudges when the side of their hand rubs over words just after they are written - something that is especially noticeable when using a fountain pen.
Lauren Mallon, a 34-year-old mum who lives in London, told HuffPost UK she has twins and thinks one may be left-handed. “He tries to grab and bat things with his left hand, and he also always extends that arm. My hubby is a proud left-hander who said he will teach one or both babies to rotate their paper when writing.”
On Twitter, Mark Wardenn also suggested left-handed kids should try rotating their paper. He touched on the fact that when a right-handed and left-handed child sit next to each other while writing or doing crafts, it can be easier to seat the left-handed child on the left of the other to avoid their arms bumping into each other.
Learning to grip a pen in a way that prevents smudging or discomfort - with the hand positioned below the pen - can be useful too, according to the Handedness Research Institute in the US. On Twitter, Glyn Rogers said he wishes he’d mastered the trick as a child.
Another tip is using Biro pens to avoid those pesky ink-spilling fountain pens.
When using a computer, switching a mouse to the other side of a computer can also be helpful - something Nicki from Essex only learned later in life.
If you’re not left-handed yourself, you could ask a left-handed adult to help your child learn to tie their shoelaces if their instinct is to tie them with their left hand leading, some people suggested:
Sitting opposite a child so they can “mirror” actions like tying shoelaces from a right-handed person can also work well, some people said:
Left-handed scissors are one of the most common special products for left-handers and can be bought online easily, though many kids learn to cut right-handed. Parents told us they are an essential product:
If your child is inclined to use their left hand for lots of activities, you can get left-handed guitars for them to learn music on - though for many instruments like the keyboard, handedness shouldn’t make a difference.
Where music is concerned, some said finding out what suits each child naturally is a good approach:
Many adults told HuffPost about cruel treatment of left-handed children in the past.
Mary Kelly, who is 49 and lives in London, grew up in Ireland in the 1980s and said she was mocked for using her left hand, while her mother who was also left-handed was beaten.
“Today there a certain things I do with my right hand, such as using the mouse on a computer or peeling potatoes,’ she told HuffPost UK. “But still today I can’t cut using scissors.”
Her advice is that supporting a left-handed child is key: “I would say to any parent: don’t make a big deal and just buy left-handed goods.”
Amy Gibson, 28, who has a left-handed nephew and is left-handed herself, thinks some elements of the stigma of the past are still around today.
“My child is five and I think it is still around,” she told HuffPost. “When I was growing up there was a teacher who basically said left-handers are slow. My dad went in and gave him what for and then he stopped.
“There is a lot of stigma going around that left-handed people are slow, and they’re not. Even if they were slow in one thing, they might be creative in something else.”
She’s been teased for having messy writing, which she thinks could be because she’s left-handed. She agreed that being supportive and not making a fuss is important: “I don’t think it’s necessarily about learning differently, it’s just about a lot of reassurance and support that they are like everyone else. What could be right for a right-hander could be completely different for a left-hander. They are different, but not in a bad way, in a good way - it’s very rare that people are left handed!”
On Twitter, others agreed being supportive and encouraging positive creativity are the most important aspects of raising a left-handed child:
But many people, including parent Emma Bailey from West Sussex, said being left-handed makes little difference to a child’s upbringing, while left-handed Twitter user Elena felt that using right-handed products just shows “how great we are!”