Imagine there is a line running down the middle of your body dividing the right and left sides- this is what we call the Midline. The two sides need to work together and be able to “cross over” to the other side to do basically everything like scanning a bird flying overhead, swinging a bat during a little league game, buckling a seatbelt, and writing across a paper.
Why is it important?
Crossing midline helps build communication skills between the right and left sides of the brain. As the eyes, arms, and legs cross this imaginary line, communication between the right and left sides of the brain is happening. If crossing midline (or this communication) is not happening, hand dominance may not be established, which can negatively affect both fine and gross motor skills. It can also greatly impact school based activities like copying notes from a board, reading efficiently, and participating in team sports. Crossing midline develops over time – we’re actually not born with this skill. It begins around 3-4 months when babies start visually scanning without moving their heads and fully integrates by 8-9 years old. Our course, Babies on the Move, provides some really great activities to encourage crossing midline as our littles enhance their vision and motor skills.
When should my child be able to cross midline and what does that look like?
- Babies visually track across the midline without moving their heads around 3-4 months
- Babies reach across midline for food and toys around 6 months
- Babies transition from sitting to crawling by crossing midline between 7-10 months
- Toddlers can draw a horizontal line across a paper around 2-2.5 years old
- Children can easily cross midline for more advanced tasks like brushing teeth and sports around 4 years old
- Crossing midline is fully developed for more complex skills and activities by 8-9 years old
When should I be concerned?
- If your toddler/preschooler consistently swaps hands while coloring, using the left hand to color on the left side of the paper and the right hand to color on the right side of the paper
- If your toddler/preschool uses only the left hand for activities on the left side of the body and the right hand for activities on the right side of the body
- If your preschooler passes an object from one hand to the other instead of crossing over the midline, for example, transferring a block from the right hand to the left to place it on a tower
- If your child has difficulty visually scanning across the full field of vision, you may notice this with reading or playing sports
- If your child struggles with word searches, mazes, or connect-the-dot activities
Activities to improve crossing midline skills:
- Twister– This game is great for encouraging kids to cross their arms and legs over each other!
- Simon Says- Use crossing midline instructions like “put your right hand on your left elbow”
- Pop bubbles– Instruct your child to only use their right or left hand to pop the flying bubbles.
- Hot potato game- Sit in a circle with friends or family and pass a ball or bean bag around and around until the song stops.
- Spot It – this game is great for visually scanning, forcing the eyes to cross back and forth over the midline.
- Cleaning Games- Kids LOVE this! Try washing the car or windows with only one hand. Kids love to help out so give them a rag and get going! Encourage them to use one hand, then switch to the other!.
- Toe touches across the body- Bending diagonally, have your child touch his right hand to his left toes and his left hands to his right toes. Fun fact, this is a great exercise for you too, so get down on the floor and join them!