Putting on shoes, learning to use utensils and navigating the neighborhood are all skills that require telling your left from your right.  If your child is anything like my 3.5 year-old, learning to distinguish direction can be a challenge.

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Teaching Kids Left from Right

Ever since A could put on her own shoes, she would put the left shoe on the right foot and the right shoe on the left foot nine times out of ten.  And even though A could recognize the alphabet at an early age, having her hold out her outstretched hands to form the letter “L” with her left hand didn’t work reliably for her to figure out directions.

Since A was young and still using both her left and right hands interchangeably, I didn’t rush to correct her mistakes. But now that she has shown that she is right-hand dominant, I thought it would be a good time to really focus on teaching her right vs. left.

First Thing In the Morning

Instead of teaching both left and right terms simultaneously, I concentrated on A learning just her dominant right hand.  Once a child has learned her right hand, she can easily figure out which hand is left… no pun intended!  We started first thing in the morning as she was getting dressed.  When A needed help, I always started with her right side saying, “slide your right foot into your sock, ” or “put your right arm into your sleeve”.

The Shoe Trick

To help her figure out her shoes, I wrote her name on a piece of painter’s tape and cut it in half.  I placed the beginning of her name in the left shoe and ending in the right shoe.

What a clever way to teach kids left from right!

It took her a moment to figure out she had to make her name and her shoes would be positioned correctly.  She was so excited with this trick she ran to show her dad.  {If your child doesn’t recognize their name yet you could draw a simple picture and cut it in half.}

“L” for Lime and Left

For a little more fun, I painted the nails on A’s right foot and hand red and her left foot and hand lime green.  I then put a red circle in her right shoe and a lime green circle in her left shoe.  She instantly made the connections, “R” for right and red, “L” for lime and left.

PicMonkey Collage - Teach Kids

The visual reminder of the red nails not only helped A with her shoes but she was able to navigate on a walk around the neighborhood following my directions.

Something Sticky

In scouring the web for tricks on teaching left from right, I came across many people using a body feature such as a freckle or scar on a certain side of their body to help them learn.  Since A doesn’t have a body feature, I created one by giving her a temporary tattoo, stamp, or sticker on her right hand.

Smelly Hand

A could instantly tell me which was her right hand with her tattoo in place, but the most effective trick was what A called “smelly hand”.  After A got herself ready for the day I would ask her to give me her right hand and then I would rub fun scented lip balm on the back.  She loved smelling her hand throughout the day and quickly learned which hand to present after a few mornings.

Simple Ways to Teach Kids Left from Right. {Playdough to Plato}

Right Around the Block

To help her navigational skills we’ve been taking walks “right around the block”.  I let A lead us but with one important rule: she can only make right-hand turns.  When we cross the street I ask her for her right hand, when we drive familiar routes, I have A tell me which direction to turn and when we go grocery shopping I have her navigate the cart.

Within a week, A has her right and left hand down pat. It’s been really easy and fun to teach her this skill that still trips up many an adult.

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  1. I could not get the video to work, either. Is there another link to it?
    Thank you so much,
    Karin LaPierre

    1. Hooray Nancy! I am so glad that you found the information useful.
      Have a wonderful week.

  2. I love the nail polish and name idea in shoes! My three old will love this…plus any excuse to paint her nails!

    1. So glad you love it, Renee!
      Hope your three year old does too!
      Ashley // Happiness Ambassador

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