By the time children reach age 6 or 7, they should be able to differentiate between right and left. Parents and teachers can help young children attain this milestone through cues, activities and games. The best activities use visual, auditory and tactile methods along with repetition.
Many children's games help illustrate the difference between right and left. When teachers give verbal signals and children follow directions requiring movement, they may learn the difference more effectively. For instance, singing the "Hokey-Pokey" and playing Twister or Simon Says require left-right understanding. Instructions for Twister should include not only colors but requirements like, "Put your right hand on a red circle." Simon Says instructions should include language like, "Simon says raise your right hand" for more practice. Teachers should add right/left directions for all actions. During physical education activity, for instance, tell children to first stretch with their right hand and then their left, or have them put their right foot forward and then backward. Children can use these same kinds of left-right movements when dancing along with the "Hokey-Pokey."
When performing any activity, such as cooking, cleaning or playing with toys, use verbal and visual instructions such as, "Let's pick up the blue pieces with only our left hands." Talk as you navigate when walking or driving with your child. Running a GPS device -- even when you are familiar with the route -- illustrates turning right and left as you drive, since the electronic voice uses phrases such as "turn left" and "go right." Become the GPS voice for your children when walking. Ask questions such as, "Which way should we turn at the next corner?" This prompts children to respond by saying "left" or "right."
- University of Illinois: Ages & Stages -- School Age Children
- KBYU TV: Learning through the Early Years: The Benefits of Repetition and Variation
- Enchanted Learning: Learning Left and Right
- Kidspot: Best Teaching Practices for Left vs. Right
- North Shore Pediatric Therapy: Enhancing Right-Left Discrimination through Play
- Comstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images