The phenomenon of handedness is interesting to me. This element of infancy can begin to influence the child in various ways. It is not news to anyone that for a long time left-handed people were viewed as different or in need of some special accommodation. Indeed, until recently public educators and other service providers discriminated against many left-handed people. The literature pointS out that handedness is more a function of genetics than a result of environmental influences.
According to Holder on the “Gauche” website, it is important for parents and teachers alike to understand that the child may switch from one hand to the other. According to the Growing Child website, the infant at six months should be a. using the whole hand, b. reaching with two hands for objects up to one foot away, c. transferring objects from one hand to the other. Parents can watch for this attainment of skill and recognize any delay in its accomplishment.
I think it is important for parents to downplay the importance of which hand the child is using. The literature also suggests the use of mittens on the hands to increase the infant’s use of gross motor skills. Infants who were given mittens began the exercise of grasping sooner. They tended to look at objects longer and were more likely to put the item in their mouth, which of course, provided further information for their brains to process about the object.
It is also interesting to think about what and how an infant visualizes its world. An infant prefers to look at objects that have patterns on them and produce visual activity. Depth perception appears to form around 2-4 months of life.
Experiments were conducted by Gibson and Walk wherein a cliff was created and clear glass was placed over the drop-off point. Even when coaxed by significant others, the infants refused to crawl out on to the glass, indicating they had depth perception. This has implications for parents. They can relax. The infant is going to have some level of reservation about falling off a countertop!
The concept of perceptual-motor coupling is important. The infant is constantly about the business of taking in information about its world and making advances in processing this information in order to motivate and ambulate itself over geographical space. There is a myriad of cognitions going on to process color, sound, smell, visual cues, distance, body movement, direction, speed, and accuracy. All of this is in formative stages.
Parents can do much to help here. Provide direction and visually stimulating images for the infant to process is helpful. Placing patterns in the infants visual field is important. Providing verbal support and touches that communicate support can be helpful.