Crossing midline is an important developmental skill that is typically mastered when a child is 3 or 4 years old. Crossing midline is the ability to reach across the middle of the body to the other side. It creates connections in the brain by requiring the left and right sides of the brain to “talk” to each other in order to coordinate movement and learning.
Children who have difficulty crossing midline can have difficulty with handwriting, reading, and gross and fine motor skills. When writing, children who avoid crossing midline will tend to swap hands depending on which side of the side of the paper they are writing on. They also can struggle to write diagonal and horizontal lines in letters because they require crossing midline. For example, a child who does not cross midline may only cross the letter ‘T/t’ on the left side or the right side depending on their handedness. Additionally, they may make some shifty moves such as shifting their writing paper to their dominant side to avoid crossing midline or shifting their body to their non-dominant side so their writing hand does not need to reach over to the other side.
Reading can also be a struggle for children who do not cross midline. It can impair visual tracking across the page from the left to the right side of the paper or book making it difficult to follow the text.
Children who have challenges crossing midline also tend to have difficulty performing fine and gross motor tasks as well as tasks that require both hands to work together (bilateral coordination). By avoiding crossing midline, both hands get equal practice with various skills, which can lead to a delay in determining hand dominance and having two hands with mediocre skills rather than one skilled hand.
Below are some fun activities that you can do at home to help your child to cross midline. Make sure to demonstrate what you want your child to do before starting each activity.
2. Balloon volleyball or baseball. Have your child hit the balloon with only one hand or use a foam noodle to bat the balloon.
3. Simon Says. Example- “Touch your left shoulder with your right hand.”
4. Streamers: Buy or make a streamer with ribbon and have your child make circles and patterns in front of their body while holding the streamer with one or both hands.
5. Games, puzzles, crafts, and sorting activities. Place the various objects so your child will have to reach across their body either to get or place the objects.
6. Flashlight tag. You and your child lie on your backs in a dark room holding flashlights in the same hand. Use the walls and ceiling to tag each other’s light.
7. Rainbow drawing. Have your child sit cross-legged on the bottom edge of a poster, centered, and have them draw a rainbow from the bottom left corner to the bottom right corner if right-handed, or from the bottom right corner to the bottom left corner if left handed. Repeat multiple times using different colored crayons, pencils, or pens.
8. “Lazy 8”s. Have your child draw a large figure eight (on its side) on a vertical surface, with the child standing at the center of the eight. Have your child place the hand that is not drawing on the writing surface for stability if your child is rotating their trunk. You can also make the lazy 8 into a race track and have your child guide a toy car along the track.
9. Hop Scotch. Have your child reach down and across their body to pick up the bean bags.
10. Cross Marching. Have your child march with an upright posture, touching their right hand to their left knee. Then switch to touch their left hand to their right knee. To make this more challenging, have them touch their elbows to their knees. Repeat this marching movement several times.
11. Windmills. Have your child spread their feet, shoulders width apart. Then, have them raise both of their arms in the air as though they are making the letter X with their bodies. Next, have them reach down with their right hand to touch their left foot. Then, bring their arms back up in the air to make an X. Now have them reach down with their left hand to their right foot. Repeat this movement several times.
12. Percussion instruments (or blocks). Have your child bang percussion instruments together in front of their body.
1. Floor time activities: Gently hold your child’s non-dominant hand down to encourage reaching across midline with their dominant hand.
2. Tabletop activities: Provide verbal prompts to keep their non-dominant “helper hand” resting on the table so their dominant hand has to do the reaching.
3. Pencil and paper activities: Make sure the paper is centered in front of your child, you can even tape it to the table. Watch for shifting of their body away from midline and give verbal or physical prompts as needed.
4. Vertical surfaces: We love using vertical surfaces to facilitate crossing midline. Have your child stand front and centered to what you are having them draw. Watch your child’s upper body to make sure it does not rotate when reaching across midline. If it does, have your child place their non-dominant hand and forearm on the board for increased stability.
If your child has difficulty crossing midline, we recommended consulting with an occupational therapist.
About Skills 4 Life:
Skills 4 Life Pediatric Occupational Therapy offers a broad range of pediatric occupational therapy services to help your child master age-appropriate developmental skills, become more independent, increase academic success & develop confidence. The experts at Skills 4 Life specialize in handwriting, keyboarding & executive function coaching, but also work with children on social & emotional learning, motor skills, self-regulation strategies & activities of daily living. Skills 4 Life Pediatric Occupational Therapy offers your child a safe, compassionate environment to learn the critical skills they need to be successful. Learn more about our team & services at www.skills4lifeot.com, or you can contact our office by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 303.351.1828 for a free consultation.