Handwriting for Lefties

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  • mrsmccardell

    I just discovered that teaching handwriting to a left-handed child is completely different than right-handed! This may sound dumb but I had no idea. And here I am with dd6 and ds5 both being left! I discovered this because I am trying to find a program that will be explicit enough to help dd6 with her fine motor delays yet accommodate my ds5 with typical development. So I liked Pencil Pete but it’s for righties. Does anyone have any good experience teaching a leftie or two? Thanks for your time.

    Rachel White

    My dd is a lefty. Actually she was ambidextrous most of her early years. Plus, she has sensory dysfunction and had issues with her eyes perceiving things among other things.

    I highly recommend Handwriting Without Tears. http://shopping.hwtears.com/category/HWT

    Also, be patient; 6 is young, so don’t require any more writing beyond what is in that first book. The Products that were helpful for her were:

    Either the Pre-K book: My First School Book (used to be Get Set for School) or Letters and Numbers for Me. I can’t exactly remember.

    Stamp and See Screen (wonderful product)

    Wooden Pieces with Letter Cards (though I would only recommend these for a child who does well on the floor, needing that sensory input and is very kinesthetic as my dd is)

    Slate Chalkboard

    Pre-K Wall cards (the non-colored ones. My dd is very artistic, so when she learned a letter, she would color the wall card and we’d tape it up in her room) I think now they have the color print and number wall cards which would be fine.

    I didn’t start copywork until she was 7 and then I used Presidential Penmanship, HWOT style together with the workbooks from HWT. That combination worked well. She worked through the Gr. 1 and 2. Then she worked through Classical Cursive last year for D’Nealian cursive and now she’s back to PP Gr. 3 cursive in DN style. I think this combination of resources has worked beautifully.

    I stopped at the book before cursive and she transitioned into D’Nealian cursive last year at age 10 using the  Classically Cursive, Bk. 1 from Veritas Press.



    I love Simply Charlotte Mason’s offerings here for handwriting because I can print and print and print without having any binding in the way for my left-handed little ones. I also have had great success using the Start Write computer program to generate my own customized pages. Again these pages are left unbound until the lesson has been completed. I find that, as long as the page is slanted at the same angle as the writing arm, the instruction is the same for right and left handers.


    Take a look at this


    It shows that left-handed writers cross their letters opposite right-handed writers.  It’s letters like F, T, t, A, etc and I can’t seem to see this teaching in any other program incl HWT.  Yes, they are friendly with the binding at the top or with the example in more than 1 place but they don’t show the letters that cross differently.  Thoughts?  

    Also, check out the differences with your scissors!  


    I have 2 Lefties – my 6.5yo and my 4yo.

    Peterson Directed Handwriting has a file or two of information about teaching handwriting with a Leftie.  One main thing is that they should tilt their page (the opposite way from a RH person – and more) even for printing – so that their hand goes under what they are writing.  Don’t let them do a hook hand overtop.

    I wouldn’t do the different letter formation that mrsmccardell suggested – but that is because we do Italics – and when you switch to joined-italic (ie, cursive) – you join out of the cross!

    My 6.5yo took forever to be able to write clearly.  She is VERY prone to writing backwards.  When she was young (ie, 4) – she would write her name like this….     ohce   (well, her name backwards, not her code-name of echo) – starting at the right of the page.  Also often the letters themselves would be backwards.  (btw – the Peterson Directed Handwriting (cursive first) itself did NOT work well for my Leftie)  

    I think my next Leftie might be easier to teach (haven’t started yet) – as the writing she does on her own doesn’t tend to be backward or jumbled like my first Leftie.     I’ve heard that the Lefties that tend to be more prone to backwards writing and messy writing are those that seemed to take a long time to pick which hand was dominant…  They may have “mixed dominance”.   Echo – well, I suspected that she was going to be Left Handed when she was young – but wasn’t sure.  She would mostly color, etc with her left – but I’d say it was about 60% left, 40% right…. then 70% left, 30% right….   then 90% left, 10% right….  finally all left handed.     Foxtrot, on the other hand, was consistantly picking up the crayon with her left-hand by age 2.  Golf, at age 2, consistantly is right-handed.


    btw – for many things, the best way to teach manual things to a Leftie is to sit opposite them so they can mirror your movements.  (ie – tying shoes…)

    I also got some advice from a Leftie that I’ve found helpful about scissors….  teach your Lefite to hold the scissors in their RH and the paper in the Left.  It really does serve them better.  First off, with precision paper cutting, the control of the paper is the key thing – so that will be with their dominant hand.  But the main thing is the whole thing with scissors.  Most of the time it is so hard to get LH’d scissors.  Say they are at church or scouting or something that is oding a “craft” with paper-cutting…. out come the box of scissors.  They are almost all going to be RH’d scissors – if not all of them.    Also – beware – uni-scissors that are supposed to be for either hand are still RH scissors.  The handle is made to make it more comfortable for a LH’d person – but the way the blades cross is still for a RH’d person.




    I have a leftie. The BEST thing I ever did for him was to make him his own spiral-bound books with the spiral on the right. He absolutely got so frustrated fighting the spiral on the left. Another option is to turn a store-bought spiral notebook upside down. The red line will then be on the right as are the holes, but at least the spiral is out of the way.

    I use lots of spiral notebooks I make for our kids’ handwriting books and math problems, so this was an easy thing that payed off big.

    I don’t know of any specific programs though as I just use copywork. Also you can encourage them to turn their paper more. This will help them to NOT turn their hand so much. I don’t know if I’m explaining well, but a lot of lefties turn their hand very awkwardly but it is easier if they learn to turn the paper instead. You may notice your child turning their hand where it is almost upside down with their fingers pointing down. If they turn the paper, they don’t have to turn hand so much.



    My oldest and youngest are lefties.  I second Handwriting Without Tears.  It’s an excellent program.  The advice given is really great and I can only add this – let them figure out how to hold the pencil.  I fought with my oldest for years….”No, you have to hold it this way.  You’re doing it wrong.”  When I finally backed off, he figured out something that was comfortable for him and now writes like a champ.  I’m using that approach now with the youngest (age 6) and it’s much less frustrating.  Around the time I let go of “the right way” I surveyed all my friends and family members who where lefties and they all held the pencil differently and they all held it in some weird way that a rightie would never do….but it worked for them!

    I also used a pencil grip.  I can’t find it online now, but it had a deeper indention for the middle finger, and two smaller ones for the thumb and pointer finger.  I think it was specifically designed for lefties, but since I can’t find it now, I can’t be sure.


    I’m a lefty and two of the kids are so far. I liked Peterson Directed Handwriting for some specific training when needed with a child. We have a pencil grip that works for L or R handed (found through Peterson Directed Handwriting). It is this set on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Pencil-Grip-Ergonomic-TPG-11106/dp/B001SN8HOY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1354209719&sr=8-1&keywords=pencil+grip

    If you are left handed you put your left thumb on the L. If you are right handed you put your right thumb on the R. Soft, squishy, comfortable!

    My children use these as long as they wish. It really helps loosen their clenched fist grip (mine too). Some used it for a short while others still use it. When my little ones want to begin writing letters I use these and it makes regular pencils fit their hands so well – no need to get fatter pencils! They even fit on pens (and yes, we’ve used them there too).


    mrsmccardell, I am so glad you asked this question. I planned to post a similar one yesterday but got distracted. I have a 3.5yo who wants to learn to write, but I’ve noticed he wants to form his letters differently such as the “T,” which his name begins with, and struggles to do it the traditional righty way. I am lucky in that he has always (since infancy) held utensils, pencils, crayons, etc. correctly. Thanks to all who have posted responses.


    Peterson’s tips on Left Handed writing….  http://www.peterson-handwriting.com/training_tools/lefthanded.html


    Left-handedness is not the problem that so many envision. I have successfully taught handwriting to many children who are left-handed. Usually it is just a matter of posture. The paper should be placed at an angle, and over to the student’s left so he or she can see the writing. The reason some left-handers hook the wrist is because they cannot see what they have written. The pen or pencil should be held as a right hander does, but maybe a tiny bit higher on the shaft. The movement of forming letters is pull-and-release toward the elbow. I believe many books and programs play on the concept that left-handedness is problematic, and that is simply a money-making ploy.


    My dd5 is a lefty. I’ve been comtemplating lately as we start out on this new adventure of writing, that as long as her writing is legible, should I really be overly upset if she doesn’t form her letters the “right” way? I had a kindergarten teacher once explain to me that the only reason teachers and schools are concerned with a student’s grip is to establish conformity. Not exactly the goal I had in mind. So I’m wondering if all this fuss about writing is kind of the same thing?

    Seriously I’m not trying to be obstinate, but could someone who’s already been through this with their children tell me what the huge benefit is to having writers form the letters the same as everyone else? Obviously, if no one can decipher it, there’s a problem. But, if the letters are recognizable, isn’t that okay? I’m thinking physicians, pharmacists, other notoriously messy writers… that’s good company so it can’t be all bad, right?

    Or wrong?

    Let me know.



    Usually children start out with “manuscript” letters, those that mostly start strokes at their tops and move left-to-right. If some letters are frormed opposite from the norm, it results in illegible joining later on. For example, the letter o should start at its top and move around in a counterclockwise direction; otherwise it has the potential for being illegible. However, if a left-hander crosses t from right-to-left it’s no big deal. So, to answer your question, one’s handwritng can have its personal quirks, but still needs to adhere to a few rules.


    Okay, true. I can totally see what you mean. I’ll try to stay vigilant about some letters while letting her be a little creative with others. Thanks so much for pointing this out!



    My 6-year-old left-handed son writes pretty well with pencil and paper, but pretty poorly on a whiteboard.  His hand erases marks he has just made, and so he tries to adjust his hand/wrist angle to avoid rubbing the marks, and that makes the letter turn out bad.  Am I just not having him tilt the board enough?  Any other ideas? 

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