Left and Right Games: Fancy Footwork

Young children learn abstract concepts, like distinguishing left from right, much more readily when the learning is active, engaging and playful.

This activity, we’re calling it Fancy Footwork, engaged and motivated Immy by being fun, active and interesting. It provided opportunity for her to apply her own knowledge and understanding to extend the activity and challenge herself further (and others as well – yes, she had both Dad 101 and I playing along and my parents when they came to visit). The auditory element of chanting or calling out the footwork patterns also helped to reinforce the learning taking place.

Here’s how we played our left and right game, Fancy Footwork…

Childhood 101_left and right activities

I made our footprint shapes by tracing around one of Immy’s sandals to make a template. I then cut out ten red right feet and ten green left feet, labelled each left or right with a permanent marker, and laminated them.

Childhood 101_Math games for kids_left and right

To start off, I stuck the footprints to the floor using loops of masking tape, arranging them in a formation of single left or right feet (hops) interspersed with two feet grouped together (jumps). Immy had fun hopping and jumping her way through the arrangement, calling out ‘left,’ ‘right’ or ‘jump’ as she went.

Childhood 101_Left and right games

You have to concentrate or you might wobble and wibble and lose your balance!

Childhood 101_Left right games

After several times through the arrangement, I suggested we change the formation. Immy really enjoyed challenging herself with different combinations of hops and jumps, mixing up the distances between the footsteps too.

Childhood 101_Math games_Teaching left and right

She even got really tricky, swapping left and right to create a crossover jump challenge!

Childhood 101_Teaching left and right

We also had fun forming dance routines like this one – you start with two feet in the middle of the first row and start the dance stepping forward left/right, then backwards left right, then extend the left foot out to the outer left footprint, then tap the right foot in place. Next move the left foot to the middle left and finish with the right foot tapping the outer right. Lots of thought and concentration went into completing that one each time!

This activity was lots of fun and I can see us revisiting it regularly.

What games or activities have you used to teach your child to distinguish left from right?

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  1. Lauren Burke says:

    Great idea !! Although being ex-navy I would have the make the left one red for port, and the right one green for starboard !! (Navy terms) 🙂

  2. stephanie says:

    Love this idea! Am pinning it and putting it on my list to do with my first graders in september!

  3. We always talk about left and right when we go for bike rides. Jack will now say, “which way, left or right?” I find that the constant repetition really helps internalise the concept.

    I like your game though 🙂 Like a simplified twister 🙂

  4. Some adults need this I think! LOL
    Great post thank you Christie and I love the way you have approached teaching this to children. It would be really helpful.

    1. It is a really hard concept for children to learn. I love that the physical action, chanting and repetition of this game all work together to make the abstract so much more accessible for children.

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