Teaching kids to identify left from right

Very often, as adults, we learned to tell our left from our right so long ago that we do it reflexively, with hardly a though for it. For some young students learning to tell left from right is quite a challenge. Here are some ideas for teaching young children to identify left and right hands.

Find other areas in the child’s life where there are differences between what is on the left and right, for example:

  • In many homes dinner place settings are done a specific way, with fork to the left of the plate, knife, spoon, and cup to the left.  Discuss at dinner how the fork is on the left, the knife, spoon and cup on right.  Ask the child to set the table, or help set the table, placing all of the forks to the left of the plates, etc.
  • When in the car, you can talk about things that are on the right of the car, and on the left of the car. 
  • When greeting, we use our right hand to shake hands.  Practice shaking right hands with your child, and identifying it as the right hand. 
  • Play dance games with your child that identify the right side and the left side of the body, such as The Hokey Pokey or Looby Loo.
  • When facing the front door of your home, is the door handle on the right or on the left?  Is the doorbell on the right or the left?
  • When using the sink or tub, identify that the cold is the knob on the right, hot is the knob on the left.
  • If your child is showing clear “handedness” (preference for right or left hand when writing) point this out to your child, that they use the right (left) hand to write/draw, and not the left (right.)

Here are some strategies you can use in the meantime to help your child play piano until they have developed the skill of identify left from right:

  • Write LH and RH on your child’s hands at the beginning of piano practice sessions. 
  • Print out small drawings of right hands and left hands and have your child glue or tape them into the book when RH or LH is indicated.  (It is better that the child glue or tape them down, because this is part of the learning process.)  Then the child can match their actual hand to the drawing. 
  • If your child is confident in drawing an “L” correctly, then show your child how the LH thumb and pointer finger naturally create a correctly shaped L, and how the RH thumb and pointer finger make a backwards L.  (This method works well for some kids, but not for all.)

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