Reasons Why Toddlers Swap Hands and using Both Hands

Hands Switching in a 16 Months Old

Most of us have dominant hands, but a few don’t. If you’ve seen your 16-month-old switching hands frequently while performing tasks, you may be understandably confused. Learn the possible reasons behind this, if it’s worrisome, and what you can do about it.

Your child is growing up every day and you notice and enjoy little details and actions that he performs. Yet, if you’ve seen him frequently switching his hands a little too often, such as when eating, playing, or colouring, it could be indicative of something else.

Hand Switching in Toddlers: Is It Normal?

1. Weak Fine Motor Skills Development

Weaker fine motor skills may lead to fatigue of one hand and may force a child to start using the other hand. This cause of hand switching in your toddler can be remedied by working on strengthening fine motor skills in both hands. It will help your child build endurance and eventually learn to use a dominant hand.

2. Inability to Cross Midline

Midline is the ability to move one hand, eye or foot into the space of the alternate one, for instance, when crossing the ankles or scratching the elbows. Crossing the midline of the body is important for the development of certain specific cognitive as well as motor skills. If your child is unable to do this, he could swap hands often.

Remedies for Helping 16-month Toddlers with Hand Switching

Since there are two different reasons associated with hand switching, the remedies are 2-pronged:

  • Carrying out exercises and activities that will help in strengthening fine motor skills is the first step towards helping your toddler. You can try basic activities like cutting paper with kiddie scissors and play dough activities. Your child’s paediatrician may also suggest some exercises for weak wrists and fingers.
  • If the reason your toddler swaps hands has to do with his inability to cross the midline, encourage him to engage in activities for the same. Some examples are touching the opposite elbow/knee/ear, crossing one foot over the other while walking sideways, following a flashlight in a dark room, and tracing on a large figure 8 with a finger or an object. Again, his paediatrician can suggest more activities.

Your Role

Practice one or more of the activities above to figure out which hand is the dominant hand. Once you know the answer, you can gently discourage your child from switching hands. Instead of pushing him to practice at one shot, let him rest and resume the activity a little later. Once your child also figures out his dominant hand, he’ll soon try to use the same for almost all activities. Remember, patience is key when dealing with such issues.

A toddler switching hands may not be an issue but as he grows up, he needs to be told and assisted to use one hand more dominantly than the other one. While being able to use both is also an advantage, some tasks require one to use a strong hand, which your child is not likely to have.

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