What do Brad Pitt, Martina Navratilova, Barack Obama and Matt Groening, the creator of The Simpsons, have in common?
Yes, you’ve guessed it, they are all left-handed, and on August 13th this and every year, they have the chance to join with other left-handed people in the UK and around the world to celebrate International Left Handers Day. It’s a day to celebrate the differences and distinctiveness of left-handed individuals and was first celebrated by the founder of Lefthanders International, Inc., Dean. R. Campbell, in 1976. That year, the 13th August fell on a Friday, and was chosen deliberately to counter the superstitions and myths surrounding left-handed people.
We’ve come a long way since the 1600s when many left-handed people were thought to be in league with the devil and were sometimes tried for witchcraft. However, whilst our superstitions may have changed, the way we set up our world in terms of hand preference, has not. If you right-handed, then the world will seem pretty ‘normal’ to you. But if you are left-handed, the chances are that you will be reminded on a daily basis how the world is set up for everyone other than you!
Think about some of the ways that we have set up our world for right-handed people:
- Door handles, car doors, lift panels
- Entry barriers with ticket points on the right-hand side
- Scissors and rulers
- Computer and typewriter keyboards
- Books and notebooks
- Reading and writing
- Pianos, keyboards and stringed instruments
Kettles and measuring jugs
- Place settings and sporks
- Can openers and vegetable peelers
- Garden shears and lawn mowers
- Golf clubs and baseball gloves
- DIY tools and corkscrews
The list is endless.!
Now it is true that there are left-handed products on the market, but looking at the list above, you can see that a lot of basic equipment in our world simply ignores left-handed people.
So ask yourself the question - are you doing the same in your setting and are there some ways that you could make life a little easier for the left-handers in your midst? If you have ever damaged your right hand and then tried to write, cut something out, open a can or play a guitar using your left hand, then you will understand something of the frustration that left-handers face every day!
Why some people are born left-handed has been studied for over 150 years although researchers still do not have a definitive answer. Most theories about left-handedness suggest that people are left-handed because of their genes although it is possible for two right-handed parents to have a left-handed child, so the link to genetics is not definitive. Researchers may recently have discovered a gene that is linked to left-handedness whist other theories suggest that there are links to modelling when children observe others, and some suggest it is to do with the way that brains develop. New research also suggests that hand preference may be a result of gene activity in the spinal cord whilst in the womb although more data is needed on this, and the truth is, that nobody really knows.
Most young children have a preference for using one hand or the other by the age of about 18 months, and are definitely right- or left-handed by about the age of three. It is important to allow this natural preference to develop and not to force children to use one hand or the other.
The Left-Handers Club
In 1990, Campbell set up The Left-Handers Club, designed to keep members up to date with developments and to serve as a bridge between the views of left-handers and manufacturers. According to their website, the club also “provides help and assistance to those who require it, and they continuously conduct research on left-handedness and new items that can offer ‘lefties’ increased ease of use.” Membership is growing and it is now a highly regarded pressure group representing all left-handers, so if you are left-handed, or know someone who is, you can join at: https://www.lefthandersday.com/lhc/join-club.
Fun facts about being left-handed
- Approximately 12% of people are left-handed
- Bill Gates is the world’s richest left-handed person
- President Barack Obama famously joked about being left-handed saying, “I’m a lefty. Get used to it”
Left-handers do well in certain sports such as tennis and baseball with approximately 40% of top tennis players being left-handed
- 14 of the top 20 highest career batting averages in US Major League Baseball belong to left-handed hitters
- Studies suggest there is no difference in IQ between left- and right-handed people, although according to members of the Left-Handers Club, left-handers are generally “more intelligent, better looking, imaginative and multi-talented than right-handers!” But that may prove to be very ‘tongue in the (left) cheek’ claim!
Ways to celebrate International Left Handers Day in your setting
International Left Handers Day is now celebrated worldwide, with 20 regional events taking place in the UK alone to commemorate the day, including sports matches and parties.
We think it would be fun to ‘put the boot on the other foot’ as it were and turn your setting into a left-handers paradise for the day. Or at least, you could let some of your right-handed staff and children see what it feels like to have to use the other hand for a change and see how ambidextrous they really are. So here are some fun ideas to get everyone’s right brain thinking!
- Swap your right-handed scissors for left-handed ones
- Re-string some ukuleles/guitars for left-handed players
- Buy some left-handed pens and see how the children get on mark-making with different grips and using different hands
- Find some left-handed rulers and let the children measure some objects around your setting
- Get everyone to use their left hand for writing, opening doors, pulling up zips, eating and playing with building blocks/Lego
- Celebrate the day with memories and pictures added to your social media channels
- Make a left-hand only hand print picture
- Have a go at making shadow puppets with your left hand only
- Eat your dinner with your knife and fork in the opposite hands
- Invest in some left-handed products to make things a little easier for your ‘lefties’. You can buy left-handed products from the website or the internet, but they might just make a huge difference to children in your care if they are struggling to try to do things with their right hand, when really their natural instinct is to use their left