Crossing midline might be a motor milestone with which you aren’t as familiar! As a pediatric occupational therapist (OT), this is definitely something I am on the lookout for with all kids!
What is crossing midline?
Why is this skill important? Delays in this area can impact a variety of daily activities! Both sides of your brain are working together when you use one hand to reach across your body to do something on the opposite side. For example, I can use my right hand to reach for my coffee mug which is on the coffee table to my left. Likely, this seems like an automatic skill. This is because, as adults, we can easily use an established dominant hand to do most tasks regardless of on which side of the body they need to be preformed. We are also frequently bringing our hands to midline. We often coordinate both sides of our bodies together. These are variations of the same skill! For younger children, this automaticity is not yet the case.
What kinds of activities require crossing midline?
Have you ever seen a student start writing their name with their left hand and then switch when they get to the midline to finish what they are writing with their left? Do you have a student who uses a different hand as the “dominant”? Are they switching depending on which side they are given the utensil? Do you notice that a child plays with only one of their hands on one side of their body? These can all be signs that the student has not yet established crossing midline. I also discuss this topic in my pre-writing blog on gross motor skills! Check out that blog for more detail on the following crossing midline activities:
- Floor play
- Figure eights
- Activities of daily living
Below are five additional suggestions for how to target crossing midline to better establish it with your students/children:
1) Yoga & Exercise
In some of my previous blogs, I have talked about the Yogorilla® Body Awareness Deck [affiliate link] and their yoga flashcards [affiliate link] which are great places to start when looking for some crossing midline ideas! Like what is pictured above, windmill poses or cross crawl marches are great ways to promote crossing midline and bilateral coordination [using both sides of the body together]. For more advanced students, skills like jumping jacks, ski jumps, bicycle crunches, lunges and bird dogs are also great ways to target more advanced bilateral coordination! The Simply Free Library has a FREE yoga visual resource! Click here to enter your email to get this free movement break!
Targeting new skills in activities that are already of interest or in which the child is already participating are great! Throwing and catching, at any level, requires some degree of crossing midline and bilateral coordination. Use different types of balls [affiliate link] to make it more engaging and fun! Most sports that involve some kind of “swing” (ex: baseball, tennis, even a piñata!) will require a “follow through”. This is done by crossing midline. Most sports equipment is held with two hands together. Even kicking can promote crossing midline on the bottom half of the body! For younger students, get creative! Play “hot potato” with something large that requires two hands to pass. That trunk rotation and crossing midline while seated will be facilitated throughout that game! Playing with a balloon or reaching to pop bubbles are also simple ways to incorporate this skill!
3) Hand games
There are tons of “no prep” activities to work on crossing midline. No materials necessary! Simple hand games like “Miss Mary Mack” or “Patty Cake” are great ways to work on crossing midline and coordination with smaller children. However, even older students like these kinds of games too! Have you ever played “Concentration”? This game involves skills like working memory and other executive functions. In addition, it also requires a great deal of bilateral motor planning and crossing midline. Simon Says is another way to make working on these types of skills play-based and engaging for children! If you are the “Simon” the motions you select can revolve around whatever skill you’d like to address! Think smarter, not harder when it comes to working on specific motor skills with children! Check out my blog on 10 Almost Free OT Materials for some more ideas!
4) Fine motor activities
It’s all about the set up! Crossing midline is a prerequisite skill for mastery of a variety of fine motor skills required for school-aged children. Therefore, targeting crossing midline in combination with fine motor skills is a win-win! You can turn almost any activity into one that incorporates crossing midline based on where you position the child and the materials. For kids of all ages, consider using Squigz [affiliate link] for a fun fine motor strength component! Sit the child on a yoga ball or in “criss cross applesauce” and have puzzle pieces on one side and the board on another! Small items for a “put in” task, and the container on the other! Color on the floor using butcher paper or outside on the pavement to encourage reaching across the body with the dominant hand to color/draw!
5) Chores or other daily activities
Dusting, sweeping and mopping are all activities that require crossing midline! This skills can be practiced even at a young age – check out this adorable Melissa & Doug set [affiliate link]! Again, it is all about the positioning and how the activity is facilitated! However, activities like laundry, making the bed and wiping down the counter all lend themselves really easily to practicing crossing midline skills.