It’s fascinating to watch your baby develop new skills and reach developmental milestones. As you’re cheering your baby along her developmental path, it’s important to understand why these early emerging skills are critical for future development. Crossing the midline is an essential skill for children on a physical and cognitive level. While many babies, toddlers and preschoolers develop the ability to cross the midline on their own, there are ways you can encourage crossing the midline to help solidify the positive benefits for your child.
What is Crossing the Midline?
The imaginary line going vertically down the center of your body is known as the midline. The act of reaching from one side of the body across the other is called crossing the midline. You do it when you rub your left shoulder with your right arm, when you cross your legs or when you twist your trunk. You probably also do it when you write, cook, clean, do artwork or a variety of other common activities. Believe it or not, reading is a huge skill that is related to crossing the midline as your eyes travel across a page from left to right. At this point, crossing the midline is second nature to you, but for young children it is hard work.
The Importance of Crossing the Midline
It’s probably obvious that crossing the midline is essential for physical activity ranging from daily coordination to athletes. However, it is also vital for fine motor skills such as handwriting and cognition for reading. When a person crosses the midline, it shows that the right and left brain hemispheres are communicating and are coordinating movement and learning. Bilateral coordination is how crossing the midline develops. This is when one hand helps the other accomplish a task and is the emergence of hand dominance. Bilateral coordination and crossing the midline are usually mastered by age three.
Activities to Encourage Crossing the Midline
Try these activities to help your child develop this important skill. Each of these can progress from small movements with babies to larger more coordinated actions with older children.
- Hold a favorite object to the side so your baby has to reach across his body to grab it.
- Help your baby pop bubbles across the midline.
- Use wheeled toys such as cars to allow your baby to move his hand in a wide range in both directions.
- Give your baby an item to scoop and drop making him scoop with one hand and drop it into a container across his body.
- Play flashlight tag where your baby has to follow the light with his arms or legs.
- Pass an object back-and-forth with your baby while sitting beside or behind him.
- Exercise your baby folding his arms across his chest, touching a hand to the opposite foot, ear, etc…and criss-crossing his legs.
Sources: OT Mom Learning Activities and North Shore Pediatric Therapy