If a child is able to cross the midline, it means that she is able to efficiently use and move the limbs of one side of the body in the space of the opposite side of her body.
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For example, if a child drives a toy car across the floor in front of him using only one hand, he might cross over the midline of his body with his hand and arm. When a child throws a baseball, he crosses over the midline of his body with his throwing arm. Other examples include: drawing a horizontal line from one side of a large piece of paper to the other, or sitting in a “criss cross applesauce” or tailor sitting position.
Crossing the midline is a marker for overall coordination, bilateral coordination (efficient use of both hands together), core strength, and other developmental skills. The ability to cross midline indicates that both sides of the brain are working efficiently together and correlates strongly with a child’s reading, handwriting, and other motor skills.
Being able to cross the midline is a skill that therapists look for in children beginning as early as infancy, but we tend to focus on this skill more intently in the preschool years as children move toward developing hand dominance. Here’s a really interesting and in-depth study about how midline crossing develops beginning in infancy and moving through preschool and elementary school.
As kids develop the ability to cross midline, they begin to feel one hand becoming stronger than the other when performing fine motor tasks. This will become their dominant hand.
If a child avoids crossing midline, typically both hands will participate equally in fine motor tasks (the left hand performing tasks on the left side of the body and the right hand performing tasks on the right side of the body), making it difficult for the dominant hand to get the practice it needs to become the “strong hand”.
Sometimes, children who struggle with crossing midline do have a dominant hand, but they come up with strategies to avoid crossing midline with this hand. They may shift their bodies in their seats or shift their papers sideways to avoid crossing midline. These children may struggle with drawing shapes or letters that contain intersecting lines, diagonal lines, and horizontal lines.
Looking for fun and easy ways to work on crossing the midline? Check out these ideas!
Midline Crossing Play Ideas
Sit back to back with your child, holding a ball or other toy. Pass the object to your child on the side of your body, both of you rotating your trunk and using both hands to hold the object. Then, rotate to the other side for your child to pass the ball back to you. Repeat 10 times on each side.
Play With Cars & Trucks
When kids move cars, trucks, and other toys across the floor in front of their bodies, they’re crossing the midline. Try a Play Carpet from IVI like the Farm Play Carpet!
Play regular baseball or try it inside with a foam baseball bat and a balloon! Encourage the child to keep both hands on the bat. Or, try this fun midline crossing paddle game!
Play sorting games: place objects to sort on the left side and containers or other spaces to sort them into on the right side. Sort coins, blocks, marbles, etc. by color, shape, or size. Try sorting seeds or sorting the colors of the rainbow!
Have the child march to music and try to touch hands or elbows to the opposite knee.
At the beach or in a sandbox, have the child trace large shapes and letters in the sand with either his index finger or even with his big toe to get the lower extremities in on the action!
Large Movement Games
Try large motor games and activities that require big movements of the body like Twister or activities using streamers.
Incorporate chores for kids into the daily routine that require crossing the midline.
Hand Clapping Games & Fingerplays
Try some good old fashioned hand clapping games or fingerplays! A fun and playful way to target this skill!
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At The Inspired Treehouse, we believe that information about developmental skills and child development should be accessible to everyone, not just medical professionals. You won’t find a lot of complicated lingo here – we prefer breaking things down into terms that are a little less intimidating. That’s why we’re bringing you this awesome series: The ABCs of Child Development!
Over the next few months, we’ll be making our way through the alphabet, assigning the letters to different developmental skills. From gross motor to fine motor to sensory and more…when it comes to developmental terminology (and easy-to-understand definitions), you’ll find everything you’re looking for all in one place!
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Kris Zolakris says
This is great!
I have a question , how do you test for midline crossing problems? Are there any OT’s present that can walk me through the tests they would give a child? Thank you! -Rachel
Cat Young says
You wrote: “Sometimes, children who struggle with crossing midline do have a dominant hand, but they come up with strategies to avoid crossing midline with this hand. They may shift their bodies in their seats or shift their papers sideways to avoid crossing midline. These children may struggle with drawing shapes or letters that contain intersecting lines, diagonal lines, and horizontal lines.” Can you explain why a child with a dominant hand would avoid crossing midline? Is it just about the strength/stamina of the hand at this point, or could there be other causes, like neurological ones, for instance? If so, could you explain in more detail?
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