Crossing Midline

"Simon Says tap your right knee with your left hand!"

Being able to do what Simon has just said involves crossing the imaginary vertical line down the centre of your body with your arms, legs or eyes, which is known as crossing midline.

It’s a surprisingly important foundation skill for your child as it’s essential for fine motor (small hand and arm movement) and gross motor (bigger body movement) tasks, as well as reading and writing.

Crossing midline also helps build junior’s neurological (brain) pathways so it’s super important for various motor (movement) and cognitive (mental) skills.

Your youngster being able to cross their midline relies on their bilateral integration (using both sides of their body together) and dominance/handedness (using a preferred hand) skills.

How crossing midline skills develop

Like many skills, development of your tot’s crossing midline skills have happened gradually.

For example, when little miss or mister was just 6 months old they started reaching across their body to pick up a favourite toy or touch the toes on their opposite foot.

By the time they were between 10 and 12 months old, the ‘commando crawling’ began, with your whippersnapper moving across the floor in alternating arm and leg movements. Suddenly it was a mad dash to make sure nothing breakable was within reach!

Then, toddlerhood brought junior lots of opportunities to further develop their crossing midline skills such as clapping, washing their hands or scratching an itchy elbow.

How do I know if my child is having difficulty with their crossing midline skills?

Little miss or mister may be experiencing difficulties crossing their midline if they do any of the following:

  • Use two hands for drawing
  • Haven’t established a dominant (preferred) hand
  • Find it hard to read and write from left to right efficiently
  • Get ‘stuck’ or need to switch their hands to reach for an object
  • Have difficulty copying off a blackboard
  • Find it tough to use cutlery appropriately
  • Consistently use the hand on one side of the body to reach for and use objects that are located on the same side of the body (e.g. right hand for objects on the right-hand side and left hand for objects on the left-hand side)

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Ways you can help your child with their crossing midline skills

You can help your child develop their crossing midline skills with activities such as:

  • Playing games like 'Simon Says' and the 'Hokey Pokey' with movements that involve putting body parts from one side of the body to the opposite side of the body
  • 'Cross crawling' while standing or sitting down (moving one arm to the opposite leg and then the other arm to the opposite leg) 
  • Playing movement games where their body parts cross the midline (e.g. jumping side to side, catching and throwing against targets that are positioned in line with the opposite side of the body)
  • Drawing large figure eight 'racetracks' on a whiteboard, on butchers paper taped to a wall or with water from a hose on an outside wall, ensuring junior is positioned in the centre of the figure eight 
  • Playing 'looking games' that require their eyes to scan from left to right – for example, 'Eye Spy' and 'Follow the Torch'*
  • Throwing or placing objects into containers by moving their arm across their body
  • Finger painting by using their dominant (preferred) hand with the paper placed on the opposite side of their body
  • Making patty cake hands (where you clap both of your hands against each other’s and then cross over)
  • Playing double drums or bongo drums so they’re crossing their hands over to bang the opposite drum to the hand

* To play ‘Follow the Torch’, sit in a dark room with your scallywag and move the torchlight around the ceiling. Encourage them to follow the light with their eyes while keeping their head still.

Some additional tips for improving your child’s crossing midline skills

It’s important that your youngster has straight posture when doing crossing midline tasks so their midline (centre of the body) is positioned in a straight line from the top to the bottom of their body.

To achieve this, encourage little miss or mister to avoid twisting or leaning so their midline (centre of the body) isn’t in line with the centre of the task or activity. Kids occasionally do this to avoid crossing their midline if they’re having difficulties with this particular foundation skill.

It’s also a good idea to place objects so that junior’s midline has to be crossed when they’re reaching for things such as pencils, a drinking cup on the table and so on.

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Combined Videos

Combining several foundation skills, our PlayBiz Play-a-Long videos run for 10 minutes or so. We’ve carefully ordered the activities so they enable your youngster to have an optimal learning experience and develop the skills they’ll need for school by joining in the ‘teachable moments’. Picture a fun and educational TV program like PlaySchool crossed with an occupational therapy session that’s chock full of strategies. Ready, steady, learn! Please note: The Play-a-Long videos don’t need to be viewed in any particular order.