Understanding Motor Development in Children: Hand Dominance

Today’s post is written by Dr. Marianne Gibbs, an expert in the field of occupational therapy.

Question: How can I keep my students from switching hands when writing, coloring, or cutting?

As an occupational therapist, I am often faced with this important question about young children’s development. First, we must re-frame this question in order to appreciate the developmental perspective rather than assuming we, as educators and parents determine hand dominance outcomes.

Hand dominance is established in-utero. Wiring for hand dominance is completed before birth – we simply provide opportunities for young children to experience the hand dominance acquisition process.

Understanding Hand Dominance in Preschool

Switching Hands

Alternating or “switching” as it is often referred to, is typical and involves the seemingly spontaneous changing of hands to manage tools and media.

The establishment of hand dominance is a complex brain process. Predominant and proficient use of one hand over the other for handwriting, using scissors, and performing other functional activities in daily life usually emerges in a typical young child between 4 ½ and 6 years of age.

Up to 90% of the population is right-hand dominant and 10% is left- or mixed-hand dominant. Please note that approximately 50% of left-handed writers will use scissors exclusively with the right hand.

Encouraging or forcing the use of a particular hand in functional activities such as handwriting may actually lead to stuttering, stammering, and increased levels of stress within young children.

Research supports our efforts to honor the natural development of handedness in every young child as we guide children in the hand, head, and heart toward performing functional hand skills including handwriting, using scissors, and performing self-help skills.

How Hand Dominance Develops in Children

How to Support Hand Dominance

While it may be tempting to help a young child “decide” which hand will be the dominant mover and which hand will be the non-dominant stabilizer, research recommends a facilitative role for teachers and parents.

We must encourage children’s use of hands in play and daily activities where two hands are performing different jobs in order to develop hand dominance. Presenting toys and tools at the midline (belly button and desktop levels) allows young children to use the preferred hand to grasp and manipulate the object spontaneously, which reinforces hand dominance acquisition.

Observing the emergence of hand dominance or any other aspect of child development is a gift to the educator or parent. So, don’t worry when a young child is switching hands when coloring – instead, realize that you are most likely watching that child’s brain working through his/her hands to determine hand dominance for a lifetime.

Enjoy observing the miracle of development…Write Out of the Box!

Hand Dominance Quote

Dr. Marianne Gibbs is the creator of Write Out of the Box!, a website designed to support the development of fine motor skills in children. Her engaging and interactive workshops receive rave reviews from teachers across North America. In her shop you will find a wide array of helpful tools to support the development of fine motor skills.

What’s in Your Writing Center?

Today I’ll be sharing pictures and descriptions of my writing center with you.

This is the second post in my “What’s in your… center?” series, if you missed the first post titled What’s in Your ABC Center? you can find it HERE.

Writing Center in Pre-K or Kindergarten via www.pre-kpages.com
Disclosure: Amazon links included below

Pictures of the Writing Center


At the top is a picture of the entire writing center and below I have included close-up pictures of each shelf and listed the materials pictured.

Writing Center Materials in a Pre-K or Kindergarten Classroom via www.pre-kpages.com

Materials to Stock the Writing Center

  • Cutting Practice: I collect the fronts of old greeting cards and place them in the writing center. Students cut the pictures out and glue them to paper and then write about their pictures. They are highly motivated to use the cards; it is one of their favorite activities at the writing center and a great way to practice fine motor and scissor skills. The thickness of the cards offers more resistance, which makes it easier for little hands to cut.
  • Alphabet Punches: Punches are another great way to practice fine motor skills as well as letter identification. Students punch out the letters in their names, names of friends, or words and glue them to paper.
  • Clipboards: Students place sheets of blank paper on the clipboards and walk around the room recording their observations or copying print.
  • Dry Erase Boards: The clipboards and dry erase boards are placed in stacking file trays for easy access.

Writing Center Materials in a Pre-K or Kindergarten Classroom via www.pre-kpages.com

Writing Center Supplies

  • Alphabet Stamps: The alphabet stamps are housed in ice cube trays for easy access and organization. Use a permanent marker to label each empty space in the tray with a letter and the students match the stamps to the correct space. The students enjoy stamping their names, names of their friends, or words.
  • Writing Center Sign: There is a sign in each center that lists the educational benefits of what we are learning. You can read more about these signs HERE.
  • Paper: Paper is an important part of any writing center. I have several different types of paper available for students to choose from; regular white copy paper, half sheets of copy paper, and half sheets of construction paper so they can make covers for any books they may create.
  • Sandpaper Letters: Students use half sheets of paper to create crayon rubbings of the sandpaper letters. This is great fine motor practice because holding the skinned crayon requires students to use the muscles in their hands and also the muscles in their shoulders and arms.
  • Pasting Pieces: The alphabet pasting pieces are always huge hit. Students like to glue the letters to paper and spell their names and the names of their friends or even words.

Writing Center Materials in Preschool or Kindergarten via www.pre-kpages.com

Writing Supplies


The writing supplies such as markers, pencils, scissors and glue are stored in a plastic drawer organizer. I have also used this method for storing and organizing markers. Each table in the classroom has a caddy stocked with crayons so I don’t have a separate storage space for them in the writing center.

There is also a kid friendly stapler in the writing center that doesn’t require staples. It only staples up to 3 or 4 sheets of copy paper at a time but that’s usually plenty.

Here’s a picture of one of the table crayon caddies below.
Crayon Caddies for student tables in pre-k or kindergarten via www.pre-kpages.com

The Best Writing Tools

Writing Tools for Pre-K and Kindergarten Writing Center
1. Lowercase Alphabet Ink Stamps
2. Uppercase Alphabet Ink Stamps
3. Pasting Pieces
4. Alphabet Paper Punches
5. Sandpaper Alphabet
6. Individual Dry Erase Boards

More Center Ideas:
ABC Center
Math Center

What’s App Wednesday: Touch and Write

Touch and Write App Review


Thanks for joining me at What’s App Wednesday! This week we’ll be looking at Touch and Write by FizzBrain.

I absolutely love this app! Touch and Write provides practice writing letters, numbers, names, and words by providing 16 different messy options for writing such as pudding and shaving cream. What 4 or 5 year old doesn’t love to write in shaving cream?

touch and write app by fizzbrain

About the Touch and Write App


The Touch and Write app takes a tried and true teaching practice and puts a fun and engaging spin on it that will allow your kids to practice writing with their favorite medium every single day. I would rank this app right up there with the Flannel Board app, they are both tons of fun!

Features of Touch and Write

  • Created by real teachers
  • Based on best practices in teaching
  • 16 different mediums for writing including shaving cream, pudding, and paint
  • 28 different writing papers including 4 with primary lines
  • FUN and engaging!
  • Allows for differentiated learning
  • Allows for customization
  • Supports visual, kinesthetic, and simulated tactile modalities to enhance learning

Skills Supported by Touch and Write App

  • Letter formation
  • Identifying upper and lowercase letters
  • Identifying numbers
  • Identifying and writing names
  • Sight words
  • Word families

Wish List
The only thing I can think of to wish for is the ability to select which letters and numbers to write instead of having to follow the sequence.

You can find this app in the iTunes app store for $1.99.

Follow my Apps for Pre-K and Kindergarten board for more great app recommendations!
Follow Vanessa @pre-kpages.com’s board Apps for Pre-K & K on Pinterest.

I was not paid for this review nor is this review sponsored or endorsed by the developer or iTunes. All opinions are my own.

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