Importance Of Crossing The Midline  

Think of the tasks that you have already completed today that required the use of two sides of your body:  tying shoelaces, fastening buttons, curling your hair while blow drying, eating with a knife and fork, driving a car, typing on your keyboard or using gym equipment.  Just as your body has two sides, your brain has two sides or hemispheres.  In order for the body to be able to perform skills that require the use of two sides of the body, midline crossing (bilateral integration) needs to be well established.  This will allow actions to be performed in a smooth and co-ordinated manner.

Imagine that there is an imaginary line down the middle of your body.  The left hand must be able to perform skills on the right side of that line and vice versa.  This allows the two sides of the brain and the two hemispheres of the brain to ‘communicate’ with each other when performing a skill that requires them to work together eg: Star jumps.

Babies must be encouraged to lie on their tummies for reasonable periods each day.  If the baby becomes frustrated resist the urge to pick them up immediately.  Rather wait and see how they move out of the position.  Walking rings do not develop natural movement patterns and should therefore not replace tummy time. Crawling also develops the baby’s shoulder, arm and hand muscles for fine motor skills.  Sensory input from crawling on different textures is important to the development of touch.  Midline crossing is important in the development of hand dominance.  Hand dominance should be well established by 5 years of age.  Children who swop their hands for writing, cutting and other fine motor tasks may have difficulties crossing the midline.  Effective crossing of the midline allows the child to sit still when seated at the desk, without turning their paper or their body.  It is an important skill for the development of reading skills as the child would otherwise only read or write part of the sentence.

Encourage midline crossing by engaging the child in the following activities:

  • Gross motor skills:  hopscotch, skipping rope, bat and ball games, obstacle course (especially crawling through obstacles), star jumps, dance actions, riding bicycle and swimming.
  • Fine motor skills:  colour from left to right – not up and down.  Reach over to the other side to pick up puzzle pieces, practice tying shoelaces, play with nuts and bolts, draw rainbows with chalk, play with construction toys, make own toys from waste materials, try beading or sewing activities.

Children are meant to explore their environment.

We should therefore be careful not to structure their play/work areas so carefully that we eliminate their ability to naturally move across the midline.  Allow messy unstructured activities as often as possible.  Ensure babies have adequate time for tummy time and crawling.  You will develop midline crossing and your child’s creativity too!

By:  Adele Spear                                                                               083 665 6334

Occupational Therapist


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