How to teach left from right to Kids with Learning and Attention Issues

Many kids with learning and attention issues have trouble learning left from right. Confusion about this can make it hard to do things like solve math problems. “If I want to write the number 24, do I put the 4 on this side of the 2 or on the other side?” Left-right confusion can also make it hard to do things like follow your soccer coach’s directions. Fortunately, there are some easy ways you can remind your child which is left and which is right.

The Left Hand Makes the “L”

Here’s a neat trick if your child has a good handle on which way the letter “L” goes. Have your child place his hands palm down on a piece of paper. With a marker, trace down his left index finger and across his left thumb to create a capital “L.” Explain that when he needs to figure out which side is left, he can hold his hands out in the same manner and see where the “L” is.

Label Your Child’s Hands

Another good strategy is to actually label your child’s hands. There are ways you can do this without embarrassing him in front of his friends. You can use a favorite sticker for younger kids or a temporary tattoo for older kids. Bracelets or wristbands can also be a subtle way to mark your child’s dominant hand. For example, you can remind your child each morning that he’s right-handed and that his blue wristband goes around his right wrist. Later in the day, when he hears “left” or “right,” he can glance down and use the wristband to quickly figure out which way to go.

Label Your Child’s Shoes

You can even use the inside of your child’s shoes as a teaching tool. Writing a simple “L” or “R” can help. But it might be more effective, especially with younger kids, to put in half a smiley face or pretty much any other image that has a clear way of fitting together. For example, you can make or buy a set of stickers that show an animal’s head and front legs in the left shoe and show an animal’s hind legs and tail in the right shoe. Then label each half of the sticker with “left” and “right” or “L” and “R.” These visuals can help your child remember left and right.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Even after they seem to have mastered left and right, look for ways to practice during daily routines. With younger kids, you can do the Hokey Pokey or play Simon Says. With older kids you might say, “Please set the table, and put the fork on the left side of the plate.” Or ask your child, “Which way should I turn to get into the park? Right or left?” With lots of practice and encouragement, you can help your child feel more confident about knowing left from right.

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