“Left-handed children have scrawny letters”, “You can’t possibly write with your hand angled that way!”
I busted a few common misconceptions about left-handed people when I moved in with my roommate June, during my second year of university. June wrote in running cursive, every letter perfect and flicked at the right places, almost like art. June was also coincidentally, the first friend I had who was left-handed. Naturally, the subject of how she’d learnt to write that way was broached, and I left that conversation a whole lot smarter, and free of a plethora of myths that I’d gathered over time.
About 10 percent of the world’s whooping 7.8 billion people are left-handed. Contrary to the middle ages, left-handers are no longer seen as an oddity, excelling in the fields that they put their minds to. The conversation with June left me wanting to share the information and tips I’d gotten from her, certain that someone would find it helpful. Before you proceed to read the list, it is always good to remember that every person is different and these tips may not work as intended on everyone, but when you do find something that sticks, work with it and the results will be affirming. That being said- here are tips on how to improve your handwriting if you’re left-handed.
The grip can be something preschoolers and even toddlers find difficult; their hands smudging over the pencil leaving graphite smears every time they sit down to write. This can be equated to a limited view when they write and can be avoided by prompting the left-handed person to hold the pencil/pen at least 1.5 centimeters from the lead point. This can be indicated by a small sharpie marking around the desired area for grip which can be removed once the child is familiar with position.
- Use a vertical blackboard to help with training a child to write fluidly. This encourages a full arm movement with greater freedom and a less cramped position.
- If you don’t have a blackboard at home, use a surface that is slanted at an angle to place the writing paper on. The angle helps to reduce obstruction between the hand and the writing surface.
- Encourage the left-handed person to consistently keep the left-hand above the line and to use the right hand as the stability hand.
Check that a left-hander is not sitting too close to the right of a right-hander. This will avoid the scenario of their arms colliding. Another quick to remember is that some, if not all left-handers will find writing easier if they can sit on a higher chair, provided that their feet are still firmly planted on the floor.
- When writing words, numbers or even drawing something on paper, encourage the left-handed person to place them on the right-hand side pf the page. This is where left-handed notebooks come to play. These notebooks have the spiral binding on the right-hand side, that does not obstruct writing. These books also come with paper that enables quick drying of ink, that may reduce smearing.
Angle the paper to the right on a flat surface with the left corner of the paper, pointed in an upward direction, around 45 degrees. Doing so helps left-handed child to place their arm on the paper at a natural angle, helping them to write clearer and faster while not hurting the wrist. When children learn to practice the specific angle, they will be able to move their hand from the left to right direction without having to hook the wrist.
Pencils over pens
This is something most preschool teachers stress on. Pencils allow children to quickly erase something that they find unsatisfactory and can try again. Ink pens give little room for error and can turn the entire page into a splotchy mess if southpaws are involved. Another tip is pick out a triangular/hexagon shaped pencil while stationary shopping. These shapes give a better grip than the rounded, smoother ones and can help with keeping a better grasp on the pencil.
This was something of a new find for me, something that my left-handed friends swear by.
- A smudge guard is a partial glove that’s made of nylon and spandex, that fits snugly and allows the hand to glide smoothly across the writing surface, by eliminating unnecessary friction. This helps reducing smearing of ink and graphite in left-handed children. The glove is usually made of lycra or spandex, designed for comfortable wearing.
- Another use of the smudge-guard is to prevent smudging on tablets and other gadgets while creating digital art- it removes the friction between hand and tablet to allow smooth gliding over the screen surface, works perfectly for sketching, inking, coloring and digital drawing on graphics tablets. Most smudge-guards are meant to be a one size fits all fix and are available in a variety of colors.
Large letters first
When your left-handed child is learning to write, start by having them draw large letters- capital O’s and big B’s. This will help them ease the death grip on the pencil and write more fluidly as time progresses.
Go online shopping
There are a vast range of stationary options that caters specifically to the needs of left-handed people. From pencil grips to left-handed scissors, the options are virtually endless. Start off by introducing something small when the children is writing, and get them to adapt to one before introducing another.
Creating an accepting environment
One of the main things I can’t stress enough about is to never force your child to switch to their right hand. Encourage them and let them take their time. If you’re ever required to reassure, tell them that Aristotle, Ronald Reagan, Oprah and Rafael Nadal were all left-handed; just to remind them that despite being a meager 10% of the population, they’ve achieved great things.
In conclusion, improving handwriting can be a tedious job- both for left-handers as well as right-handers. The key is to approach this task with patience and encouragement. Give them room to make mistakes, to erase and figure out how they can write and learn better. Share your stories on how you helped your child write neater, what are the struggles you had to overcome to get to the finish line- your experiences could resonate with the next person too!