Learning the difference between left and right


The swimming lesson had just ended, and parents were invited into the pool. My son's teacher, Jennifer Myers, heard me say, "No, Tristan, use your left hand." She also heard his response, "Tell me again, Mommy, which one is my left?"

The young instructor leaned over from where she was sitting at the edge of the pool and said, "Hey, Tristan, do you know your letters?"

He nodded.

She told him she used to remember the difference between her left and right hands by holding her thumbs perpendicular to her index fingers. The hand that forms an "L" is the left hand.

A few weeks later, in my son's AWANA (Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed) class at church, teacher Dave Carpenter suggested the same technique to his preschool students.


I hadn't heard this little tip, even though I read parenting books and magazines. Sometimes you just can't find the advice you're looking for when you need it.

Wouldn't it be nice to ask someone how you can get a certain concept across to your child? To see what works for other parents? What experts recommend?

Today we're starting a new column for parents, grandparents or anyone who is involved in the life of a child.

Tell us what you're trying to teach them, and we'll find an expert to give you some tips.

We may even use your child in a photograph to illustrate the concept.

If you're not a parent and would like to suggest some things that you think children need to learn, we'd like to hear from you, too.

Call, write, fax or e-mail us. The numbers and addresses are at the end of this column.

As far as the left-right dilemma, the "L" shape is just one way to teach the concept, says Niki Queen, early childhood resource teacher for Washington County Board of Education.

Queen recommends using games to teach concepts to young children.

"They'll internalize the concept a lot quicker, a lot easier," Queen says. Queen suggests:

* Play the "Hokey Pokey:" "You put your right hand in; you put your right hand out. You put your right hand in, and you shake it all about. You do the 'Hokey Pokey' and you turn yourself around. That's what it's all about." (Repeat verse and actions using left hand, right foot, left foot, etc.)

* Put a red sticker, bracelet or some other article on the right hand when playing a game to remind the child which hand is the right hand. Red starts with the same letter as right and can cue the child.

* High-five game

The object of the game is for the child to give you a high-five with the correct hand. Sit facing the child. Put your hands up in front of you with your palms facing the child's palms. Call out "right" and have the child high-five your left hand with his right hand. Make some kind of movement with your left hand so he can see it. Then say "left," and have your child high-five your right hand with his left hand. Repeat right and left and give the cue with your hand. Eventually you can play this game without cueing the child.

Tell us what you're trying to teach your child. We'll ask an expert for advice. Call Lifestyle Editor Lisa Tedrick Prejean at 301-733-5131, ext. 2340; write to her at P.O. Box 439, Hagerstown, Md. 21741; send a fax to 301-714-0245; or send e-mail to

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