Teaching left and right: useful tricks & activities

Putting up shoes, using pencils, knife, and fork, orienting in space – there’s the whole gamut of activities for which your child should be able to distinguish the right and the left side. If your little one is 3 years old, it can be quite a challenge. Understanding the principle of Laterality (self-awareness of the left and right parts of our body) is crucial, but every person has different ways of learning the sides. Let’s observe various methods of teaching left and right.

In fact, you can define whether your kid is aware of their body midline and sides by watching how they draw. Does your kid pass crayons from one hand to another when drawing on the left and the right side of the page? Does the kid use the left hand to reach the crayons on the left and vice versa? If yes, it’s time for teaching left and right – your little one starts developing hand dominance.

On the topic: Out of the left field: How to treat your left-handed child?

Recommendations for teaching left and right

Before you start your lessons, take into account the way children think and percent. Kids under 3 can only understand what can be seen and touched. Their attention span is quite short – it lasts for a few minutes only. Therefore, you should come up with some gripping and exciting activities.

Children are not motivated by goals – they are interested in the process of learning rather than results.

Also note that kids have ‘associative’ kind of memory, which means they are more likely to recognize something that triggered emotional reactions. The ability to recollect and describe events starts forming after three.

On the topic: The game of opposites

Here are 5 tips to make teaching left and right more productive:

  1. Organize your lessons in a game form. Pick up activities that would be interesting for your children. Make them fun, and you will see better results.
  2. Don’t start your game in an unfamiliar place – new background will only distract the little one.
  3. Stop your exercises, if the toddler gets bored or annoyed. Your lessons should bring positive emotions only.
  4. Make it a daily routine. Recollect the left and right sides when doing everyday activities, such as brushing teeth, eating, or drawing.
  5. Use the kid’s body side dominance as the jumping-off point of your lessons. Not sure what is the dominant body side? Ask a kid to pick up a pencil, or listen to a shell, and watch which hand is used to do the action. Also, you can ask the kid to cross their legs and check out which one is placed on the top. These are quite reliable signs.

Tricks & Activities for teaching left and right

Squeezing and tickling

The point of this exercise is to establish the association between some certain action and the side. For example, you can gently tickle the left foot of your kid when waking them up. Or squeeze the right hand when you cross the road. Accompany your actions with an explanation: “I will hold your right hand while we’re crossing the street”.

Use the dominating body side

When you help your little one to dress, start with the dominant side: “put your right arm through the sleeve, then the left”.

There’s one more way how you can use a dominating body side. During the drawing exercise, ask your kid to draw something with the right hand, then the same picture with the left. One of the hands will be less obedient than another – explain which one.

Some people use such a reminder as “I’m right-handed, so I write with my right.”

The L word

The rule of Left handIn fact, this trick is used by adults, too: about 20% of us don’t have a strong left and right distinction. Ask your kid to look at the left palm with the thumb up. You’ll see that it forms the ‘L’ letter, which will stand for Left.

The shoe trick

The shoe trickTypically, kids mix up the sides when they put on the shoes. You can ease the task by:

  • Putting stickers on the inner soles. For instance, one sticker can be cut in two, and the kid would have to place the shoes so that the piece formed a picture. For kids who can read, write the first two letters of their name on the left sticker, and the last to letters on the right sticker. Therefore, the stickers should be positioned to form the child’s name.
  • Buy shoes with flowers, or some cartoon characters attached to the outer side. Explain to the kid that “flowers turn to face the sun” or “superheroes are always on the outside to see what is happening around”, so when they’re inside, it’s the wrong foot. That will serve a good reminder for children, and soon they will stop repeating the same mistake over and over again.

Reap double advantage from your navigator

Your kid is often by your side when you’re driving a car? Turn the GPS on, even if you know the road and it’s a bit of nuisance. Hearing the familiar “turn right in 100 meters” followed by the corresponding car movements will assist kids in learning the concept of sides.

On the topic: Child Development: Essential Skills

Use body features

A kid may have a mole, freckle, or a scar on a side of their body. That can be a good reminder of the right or left side.

Play the Hokey Pokey game

This simple dance is an easy way of teaching left and right without confusion. Besides, it also helps to develop the muscle memory.

There’s a handful of videos with Hokey Pokey game in YouTube:

Sort it out

Ask your little one to put cars on the right side, and soft toys – in the left. That will help him to learn the concept of sides quickly.

Walking Around the Block

Take the left or right turns onlyTake your kid for a walk and offer to be your guide with one condition – you have to take only right-hand turns. The next day, you can do the same and take only left-handed turns. Such exercise will boost the kid’s navigational skills to a great extent. A bit later, you can also ask your little one to guide you to the nearest shop or children playground.


These tricks for teaching left and right will help your little one to overcome the steep learning curve and understand the concept of sides better. Do you have some interesting tricks in your repertoire? Don’t hesitate to share your parental expertise in the comments!

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About nikamarvelmaker

I'm a loving mom with a strong passion for creative writing and wordplay. Freelancing since 2013, I focus on translation and crypto copywriting (Bitcoins can be fun, too). My jam-packed daily schedule includes parenting, homemaking, work and blogging on MarvelMama, and I enjoy every second of my ever-busy life.
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