Does your child struggle with handwriting, particularly with pencil grasp or being able to move their hand across the paper while printing? Or maybe they are in Kindergarten and have not chosen a dominant hand for fine motor activities including handwriting? All of these skills are why crossing the midline is so important.
What Does Crossing Your Midline Mean?
The term crossing midline is often used to describe the skill of moving your arm or leg across the imaginary line down the middle of your body. You’ll see this term used a lot by Occupational Therapists and other professionals when they are working with children who have a decrease in fine motor skills, gross motor skills, or handwriting problems.
Crossing the midline emerges around 6-12 months of age as a baby begins to explore the world around them through the tactile senses. They begin to transfer objects from one side to the other and cross the midline in order to do this.
During the first year of life, all eight of the senses are involved in the gross motor development of a baby. This sensory-motor building block is crucial for further development in gross motor skills, including crossing midline, bilateral coordination, fine motor skills, language skills, and handwriting.
That is why focusing on allowing a baby to move as freely as possible is key to so many important skills, like crossing the midline. Young children who are often in containers do not get the experiences they need in order to develop the core stability, bilateral coordination, planning and sequencing skills, body awareness or beginning hand dominance that is crucial for crossing the midline
Crossing the midline also affects how we read and write. We read and write from the left to right side of the paper, crossing the page with our eyes in a continuous movement. The eyes must cross the midline in order to do this in the most efficient way.
Full maturity in crossing the midline typically happens around ages eight to nine years old. This means for the first nine or so years of their life, your child is working on crossing the midline and further refining this skill.
How Do I Know My Child Struggles with Crossing the Midline?
Crossing the midline struggles often manifest as difficulty with bilateral coordination skills or using both sides of the body together. This often looks like a child switching hands between activities such as writing, drawing, or coloring.
They may have poor pencil skills, as in difficulty grasping the pencil and using the opposite hand to stabilize while writing. They may also not show hand dominance and switch their hands to hold the pencil during an activity (this can also be because of muscle fatigue).
Difficulty with scissors (remember age-appropriate scissor skills, check out a checklist here) such as holding the scissors and paper to cut at the same time. They may also switch their hands to hold the scissors with their non-dominant hand to cut.
They may show poor tracking skills, such as following the words on a page while reading.
They may also have difficulty coordinating more complex gross motor movements such as kicking (they may often switch legs to kick a ball) or skipping.
They may also resist complex fine motor activities or fine motor activities in general because their hand skills (using both sides together and also reaching across the body) are diminished.
For more on crossing the midline, you can read these following links and sources.
- All About Crossing the Midline – OT Mom Learning Activities
- Bilateral Coordination Activities – OT Mom Learning Activities
- Crossing the Body's Midline – Kid Sense
- Help Your Child Develop the Crossing the Midline Skill – Northshore Pediatric Therapy
- What is Crossing the Midline? – Child Development Centre
- Cross Crawl Exercises: 10 Benefits of the Brain Hemisphere Syncing Exercise – Your Therapy Source
Crossing Midline Activities
There are many great ways to work on crossing midline. I am listing some for you here and then I also include links at the end to other posts I have written with more ideas.
Yoga poses are an excellent way to work on truck rotation which is an important skill for crossing midline.
Row Row Row Your Boat
This activity would be great to use in a group or with younger age children (toddlers and preschoolers).
Have all the children sit with their legs out straight in front of them and begin to sing “row row row your boat.” Have the children pretend to grab hold of a boat oar with both hands.
If you have a child who struggles with keeping both hands together on an imaginary boat oar, you could use a small wooden stick or large
Playing Simon Says
You can encourage crossing midline with how you give directions for each of the movements or actions you have your child or student complete. Examples could be touching your right knee with your left hand, touching your right shoulder with your left hand, etc.
Drawing a Rainbow
This is especially helpful for crossing midline if you can set it up on a vertical surface and have the writing space extra large. Using large butcher paper or sheets of paper and encouraging your child to start on the left side and draw to the right side of their body will encourage crossing the midline.
Dancing with Streamers
Dancing, in general, is an excellent crossing midline activity, but adding streamers just makes it more fun for the children! You can do this with music that gives specific motions or just have them dance as they want. If you want some music with motions, here are some ideas with videos from YouTube.
Rock Wall Climbing
My daughter took rock climbing lessons for two sessions and really enjoyed it. Not only does it promote great crossing midline line, but it also works on motor planning, visual-motor skills and provides excellent proprioceptive input for sensory processing.
Stringing beads can encourage midline when you encourage the child to push the beads across the string to the other end with the string laid out flat on the table. If they try to pick the string up and complete this vertically, try to encourage them to push the beads across horizontally.
Scooping activities are a great way to have kids use their dominate hand and reach across to pour items. I like to set up the spoon or tongs on the side of the child’s dominant hand and place the items to scoop and pour on the opposite side. This encourages the child to reach across their mid-line to grab the items and scoop and pour.
Sensory bins are a great way to encourage scooping and pouring. I have a cornmeal sensory bin here that could be adapted for any type of theme or using different sensory items.
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For more crossing midline activities you can check out the following posts on my site: