Imagine that you have a line down the middle of your body from the top of your head and down through your trunk. Crossing midline is one’s ability to reach across the centre of the body with their arms and legs crossing over to the opposite side. This is a very important developmental skill that takes time for children to develop. It is a pertinent skill required for reading and writing, completing self-care tasks, as well as for many sports. The ability to cross the midline is important on the physical level as well as on the brain level. On the brain level, a lack of midline crossing may indicate that the left and right sides of the brain are not communicating well together.
What are the symptoms of difficulties? You may see children switch hands when drawing and cutting. If a child is avoiding crossing midline, it will be difficult for them to establish hand dominance, which will ultimately affect the progression of their fine motor development. Children that have difficulty understanding how to sit cross-legged and seem oblivious to their limbs usually have difficulty with midline crossing.
Toddlers will first develop their bilateral coordination skills; the two sides of the body will learn to work together at the same time to complete a task. A child will then progress to using one hand as their dominant hand while the other hand is used as a “helper hand”. This development occurs at different speeds with individual children, but a dominant hand should be emerging by the end of the third year.
WHAT WE DO TO ENCOURAGE AND DEVELOP CROSSING MIDLINE
Here at Think Sun, we use rhythm scarves and ribbons crossing the midline with music. Dancing and swinging arms in diagonal, up, back, sideways to music helps children to become aware of their arms and legs. Beanbag tossing games, Simon Says are all games we play at pre-school. We also use paint to develop fine motor skills, eye-hand coordination, tripod grasp and yes crossing midline skills.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO ENCOURAGE AND DEVELOP CROSSING MIDLINE?
Play with blocks stacking them
Using a washcloth to bathe
Household chores such as dusting, wiping tables, sweeping
Playing patty cake
Playing with cars on a large path
Playing with flashlights
Painting with a large paint roller (use water on your fence or sidewalk)
Draw a large figure 8 on a chalkboard or sidewalk and have them drive cars on it
Watering flowers using both hands
Ball passing from side to side.
Encourage independent dressing and self-care such as combing hair, brushing teeth etc.