Question: Can a laymen give a blessing?
Answer: In the absence of a priest or bishop, a layman can give blessings. You can bless your food, for example. You do this by saying the prayer before the meal, and then by making the sign of the Cross over your food. If you are eating with your family, or other Orthodox Christians, this would be done by the most senior person.
It is a pious practice for Orthodox parents to bless their children, at the end of the day, and when sending them off.
If you use a home censer, when you put incense into the censer, you can also bless it.
But just as a priest does not give blessings when a bishop is present, deferring to him, likewise, laity do not give these blessings when a priest or a bishop is present.
A laymen simply forms his hand the same way he does when he blesses himself, but makes the sign of the Cross over the person or thing that he is blessing, and because he is blessing outwardly from himself, He makes the Cross from the top to the bottom and then from his own left to his right (which, when blessing a person, results in the Cross being made over them the same way they would have made it over themselves).
Are there ever situations, let's say for instance and Orthodox believer is in a predominantly non-Christian country, where a lay person can make the sign of the cross or blessing in the same form as a priest? By this I mean using the same hand gesture. I live in Japan where there are very few orthodox and I often find myself covertly making the sign of the cross over my students and I was just curious so as to not accidentally do something I shouldn't.
I think there's nothing wrong if you did so before, but at the same time there is just no need to make the same gesture as priests do. We, laymen, just cross someone in the same manner as we cross ourselves, just as it is described in this article. This is the form of our blessing. While priests' gestures should be left to priests.
Thank you for the good information !