Crossing Mid-line – Why Is It Important?
Most of us do not realize how significant the words “crossing midline” is in the development of skills beginning in infancy. Crossing midline is important to develop because it helps in a child’s brain development to get both sides of the brain and body working together. When children have difficulty crossing midline this can lead to poor body awareness and motor coordination for handwriting and reading activities, dressing independently, participation in sports, and more.
WHAT DOES CROSSING THE MIDLINE MEAN?
Pretend there is an imaginary line separating your left side of the body from your right side of the body. Crossing the midline means when kids reach with an arm or a leg on one side of the body over that imaginary line for an item or to complete a task on the opposite side of their body. Crossing the midline requires bilateral integration skills (the left and right sides of the brain work together to signal the body to use both sides at the same time) otherwise the brain has to think about movements that would otherwise come naturally to complete tasks. Good core stability (the muscles at the center of our body) and trunk rotation (turning at the waist) are necessary for balance and coordination to cross the midline in activities.
WHY IS CROSSING THE MIDLINE SO IMPORTANT?
Crossing the midline is important in the development of gross and fine motor skills, cognitive development, and social-emotional development. Balance and coordination (i.e. crawling, skipping, and kicking a ball) strengthen gross motor skills. Hand dominance and bilateral integration skills are needed to complete tasks such as writing, cutting, and dressing oneself for good fine motor skills.
Additionally, cognition develops because both sides of the brain are engaged and must work together during learning tasks (i.e.
left to right visual scanning across pages in a book
, moving a toy to a basket, and noticing details on a page of their classwork). It also benefits social-emotional development so children build self-esteem while participating in activities (i.e. sports, school activities, and gym class games with their peers). Frustration and anxiety are reduced at school when children are able to participate in these activities.
25+ Bilateral Coordination Exercises
AT WHAT AGE SHOULD A CHILD CROSS MIDLINE?
Infants start to cross the midline with their eyes to track people or objects around three months of age. At approximately six months of age, infants start to cross the midline with the opposite arm. Preschoolers have usually developed midline crossing to participate in most age-appropriate activities with successful mastery and refinement of this skill by 8-10 years of age.
One study indicated that as children develop, they tend to cross the body midline more frequently. This effect is independent of being male or female and is observed with both left- and right-handers. Crossing the body midline is an important milestone in child development. It’s a sign that your child is gaining a better understanding of their body and how it works. Furthermore, it indicates that your child is developing stronger motor skills (Carlier et al, 2006).
Crossing the Midline for Babies and Toddlers
An example of crossing midline for infants is when they reach for a toy while on their tummy to the opposite side of their body. Toddlers cross midline when they are taking their socks off or putting on a coat. If a baby or toddler can not cross midline, they may repeatedly switch hands and toddlers may have difficulty independently performing self-care tasks.
Crossing the Midline in School
During the day at school, crossing midline is necessary to participate in learning activities such as reading and writing. School-aged children also use this skill during self-help tasks such as getting a jacket on or off, zipping or unzipping a book bag, and tying shoelaces throughout the school day. Playing passing games in the classroom such as hot potato or balloon pass with their peers will also help motor skill development.
Crossing the Midline at Home
At home, examples of activities include putting socks on and taking socks off, dressing oneself, and brushing teeth. Children also need to be able to reach for snacks or drinks on the table or type some of their homework assignments on a computer by crossing over to the other side of their body. Without the ability to perform this, they will need increased time to participate independently in tasks at home because they are not using both hands.
Crossing the Midline in Sports
Participating in sports activities becomes even more complex when a child cannot cross the midline. For example, a sport like basketball requires passing a ball through the legs or across the chest and a sport like baseball requires rotation and hitting a ball with a bat. Playing tennis and riding a bike also require movement to opposite sides of the body. Read more about 10
games to practice crossing midline.
Teaching Catching, Throwing and Kicking Skills
CROSSING MIDLINE EXERCISES AND ACTIVITIES
Exercises that include midline crossing help engage the child to cross from the right to the left and the left to the right side of the body. They also help encourage the strengthening of the core, balance, and bilateral coordination skills. Some good exercises include side bends, lunges, twists, bicycle crunches, and windmills. You can download these exercises here –
Crossing Midline Exercises.
There are all types of crossing midline activities for different age groups. The left side of the brain communicates with the right side of the brain during these activities. Some of these activities include:
· placing stickers on one arm and removing them with the opposite hand
· throwing, catching, and kicking a ball
· popping bubbles or waving a bubble wand back and forth across the body
· placing items on the other side of the body (i.e. a brush on their right side if they prefer to use their left hand)
· rainbow tracing a large figure eight with chalk on a chalkboard or erasing a large chalkboard
· moving a wand with a ribbon attached to music
· catching lightening bugs
Crossing the midline is important in daily life to be able to complete activities independently. If a child’s two sides of the brain are not communicating with each other then it can make it difficult to complete and participate in everyday activities. If you have a concern regarding your child being able to cross the midline, please contact your doctor who can consult an occupational therapist for an evaluation.
Carlier, M., Doyen, A. L., & Lamard, C. (2006). Midline crossing: developmental trend from 3 to 10 years of age in a preferential card-reaching task.
Brain and Cognition,
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