Writing with Both Hands-What you Need to Know | The OT Toolbox

Writing with Both Hands-What you Need to Know

Have you ever wondered is my child a lefty or a righty? Or been asked if they are a lefty or righty and unable to answer? Have you noticed that your child seems to use both hands equally when writing? If so, your child may be experiencing mixed hand dominance patterns or cross-dominance, and this is why you are not sure if they are a lefty or a righty. Writing with both hands can have implications that affect handwriting. Read on for information on using both hands to write writing and what you need to know about mixed-handedness.

Writing with both hands, wondering what this means for kids in learning and writing? This has great information on mixed dominance and laterality in kids.


My Child Uses Both Hands to Write—Now What?


First, it's important to understand what is happening when a student uses both hands to write. Let's discuss mixed dominance to begin. Here is more information about hand dominance and activities to promote laterality.

What is mixed dominance and what does this mean in child development? Read more about hand dominance and writing with both hands.

What is Mixed Dominance? 

Mixed dominance refers to when a child does not demonstrate a strong preference for either the left side or the right side of the body for completion of activities, or clearly utilizes both hands for specific sets of activities. For example, a kiddo might throw with his left hand, but write with his right hand.

It should also be noted that children with mixed dominance often utilize both sides of the body equally, but poorly. When they fatigue, this leads to confusion with if they are left-side dominant or right-side dominant.

When Does Dominance Develop?

Dominance of one side of the body or the other is not expected until 5 years of age. Before the age of 5 years old, use of both hands is expected to a moderate degree. However, most children are showing a strong preference for one hand or the other by 3.5-4 years of age.

Determining Mixed Dominance 

Dominance is typically determined through observation of the eyes, hands and feet and which one the child uses for task completion. For example, a child who is demonstrating mixed dominance may be right eye dominant, and left hand/foot dominant or left eye dominant, right hand dominant and left foot dominant, or any combination of these characteristics.

Therapists may utilize the Jordan Left/Right Reversal Questionnaire or clinical observations to help them determine mixed dominance. In a vision screen, the therapist can have the child pretend to be a pirate, and see what eye they close when looking through a tube/rolled paper. The eye that the child closes is the non-dominant or “weak” eye and the dominant or “strong” eye is the open one. If the “strong” eye does not match the hand preference the child has been showing, this is mixed dominance in action.

Be sure to watch this space, because tomorrow we'll cover more about writing with both hands, ambidexterity, and mixed dominance.

For more information on visual screening, check out our vision screening packet:

Occupational Therapy Vision Screening Tool

Occupational Therapists screen for visual problems in order to determine how they may impact functional tasks. Visual screening can occur in the classroom setting, in inpatient settings, in outpatient therapy, and in early intervention or home care. 

This visual screening tool was created by an occupational therapist and provides information on visual terms, frequently asked questions regarding visual problems, a variety of visual screening techniques, and other tools that therapists will find valuable in visual screenings.


This is a digital file. Upon purchase, you will be able to download the 10 page file and print off to use over and over again in vision screenings and in educating therapists, teachers, parents, and other child advocates or caregivers.


Mixed Dominance - Impact on Writing and Reading

Children who experience mixed dominance patterns are often delayed in reading and writing skills, along with poor left/right awareness. 

Poor left/right awareness can affect their ability to accurately form letters and result in ‘dyslexia’ looking reversal patterns. The reversal patterns in letter formation and recognition may also lead to poor phonemic awareness, and later poor spelling, further delaying their reading and writing skills. 

Reading left to right may also be a significant challenge as a result of poor eye teaming, as both sides of the brain are attempting to ‘dominate’ the skill. This struggle between the two sides of the brain results in poor organization of the information and retrieval of phonemic rules. Here is more information about visual processing and the skills that impact reading and learning.

Difficulties in these areas can be red flags of mixed dominance patterns that need to be addressed.

Final Notes on Mixed Dominance 

Mixed dominance does not always seem like a big deal, but when left unaddressed your child may be left frustrated with their struggles in gross motor play, reading and writing.  Struggles in these areas significantly impact a child’s self-esteem and desire to participate in age appropriate activities. Fortunately, mixed dominance can be easily addressed through therapy.

Try this pouring and scooping activity to refine hand dominance in functional tasks.

What is mixed dominance and what does this mean for kids?