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Crossing The Midline

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Just imagine a line down the centre of the body. Crossing the midline is a child's ability to reach across the middle of the body with arms and legs crossing over the opposite side. It's an important developmental skill needed for writing, putting on shoes and socks, hitting a ball with a bat and more.

Why Crossing The Midline Is Important

Crossing the midline is vital to the development of using both sides of the body together, such as putting on shoes and socks, writing and cutting. It promotes the coordination and communication of the left and right hemispheres of the brain. It also encourages bilateral coordination, the process of developing a dominant hand and development of fine-motor skills.

A child who uses a dominant hand crosses the midline with their dominant hand, then this hand is going to get the practice it needs to develop fine motor skills, however, a child that doesn't cross the midline, both hands get equal practise and the child's hand preference may be delayed.

A child who has problems crossing the midline shows the following signs:

  • Switches hands when writing, drawing, painting and colouring.
  • Uses left hand for activities on the left side of the body and right hand for activities on the right-hand side.
  • Rotates their trunk to the opposite side when reaching across the body.
  • Has difficulty tracking an object from one side of the body to the other.
  • Has poor reading skills.
  • Has poor pencil skills.
  • Uses different feet to kick a ball.
  • Has difficulty coordinating gross motor patterns (e.g. crawling, skipping, star-jumps).

This child also has difficulties with:

  • Pencil based activities – a child may avoid these activities.
  • Behaviour – a child may become angry or frustrated when engaging in fine motor
  • Activities due to less refined hand skills.
  • Performing self-care tasks independently (age influenced).
  • Coordinating both sides of the body.
  • Reading
  • Noticing all of the details on a page when copying drawings or writing.

Improving A Child's Ability in Crossing The Midline:

Activities include:

  • Double drums or bongos: challenge the child to bang the right drum with the left hand and the left drum with the right hand.
  • Push toy trucks and cars while crawling on the floor along a path made with tape; create lots of turns and waves
  • Floor play: when playing on the floor, encourage the child to lean on one hand or elbow. Place the toys or games on the side being leaned on. This forces the child to cross the middle when playing.
  • Play sorting games: place objects to sort on the left side and containers to place them in on the right side: sort coins, cars vs. trucks, pompoms, marbles, bingo chips, etc.
  • Scoop sand into a bucket using one hand to hold the bucket and the other to scoop and reach across
  • Play flashlight tag in a darkened room on the ceiling and walls while lying on your back; be sure to hold the flashlight in the same hand
  • Steering wheel (found in many playgrounds): encouraging using the same hand to turn the wheel all the way around
  • Alternating hand-over-hand activities such as pulling along a rope while on a scooter board
  • Make figure 8's and other motions with streamers; one hand at a time and crossing left and right
  • With a group of friends, play circle games to music while sitting crossed legged on the floor, such as passing a balloon or ball, toy, etc.
  • Play body awareness games like the Hokey Pokey and Simon Says

Catch and Throw Games 

  • Throw or roll, if on the floor, a medium or large ball towards targets (bucket, container) to the right of centre and the left of center
  • Bat balloons or a light Gertie balls with both hands on the bat or a tennis racket
  • Paddle games like ping pong, Stick-ums, water paddle, scoop paddle; encourage using the same hand
  • Bean bag toss: place target containers to the left and to the right; instruct the child to use the same hand for a full round, may switch to the other hand for alternating rounds if desired.
  • Catch balls thrown, or rolled, to the right and to the left of center, encourage catching with both hands together

Fine Motor Activities

  • Draw a large circle, oval, horizontal line or any picture that requires a left to right reach. Position the child in the center. Have the child place stickers or a stamper along the lines of the picture using the same hand.
  • Coin flipping: line up a row of coins, placing the child at the center. Flip coins one at a time with the same hand from one end to the other.
  • Deal cards to a group using one hand to hold the deck and the other to deal with everyone around the table. 

Build midline crossing into everyday activities. Work on core stability and trunk rotation to encourage the physical movement of crossing the body's midline.

Reference:
Crossing the Body’s Midline, Kid Sense Child Development, South Australia
What Is Crossing The Midline and Why It is Important, Child Developmeny Centre, Hong Kong
Crossing The Midline, Therapy Street For Kids

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