Have you recently heard the term “crossing the midline” but don’t know what it means?
The midline of our body is an imaginary line used to divide it into two parts: left and right. Crossing this line means that a body part (such as an arm or leg) can move over to the opposite side.
For instance, people who cannot cross the midline are unable to move their left hand over to the right side. As a result, they face many problems performing their day-to-day tasks.
If you’re worried that your child might be facing this problem and want a solution, then this extensive guide will be your aid.
We will explain everything you need to know about crossing the midline — from helping you determine whether your kid is facing this problem to exercises that help develop their skills in crossing the midline.
Importance of Crossing the Midline
Crossing the midline is vital for using both sides of the body to perform tasks such as writing, cutting, or putting on socks and shoes.
Being able to cross the midline has many benefits, among which the following three are the most significant ones:
1. Encourages bilateral coordination
Bilateral coordination is the process of developing a dominant hand. As you can imagine, having a dominant hand helps to perform movements precisely.
2. Promotes coordination of the two brain hemispheres
Without coordination of the left and right hemispheres of the brain, it’s impossible for us to even perform simple day-to-day tasks.
3. Helps develop fine motor skills
Fine motor skills are necessary for performing precise actions such as writing carefully, placing objects between your thumb and fingers, and even blinking.
What Happens If a Child Can’t Cross the Midline
When children have trouble crossing the midline, they also struggle with:
- Behavior: When engaging in fine motor activities, your child may become angry or frustrated because of less refined hand skills.
- Pencil based activities: Handwriting, drawing, and doodling — just a handful of activities where your child may find it hard to progress, and as a result, quit.
- Physical skills: Due to the difficulty in coordinating both sides of the brain and hence the body, your child’s physical skills may become less refined than those of his peers.
Determining Whether Your Child Has Trouble Crossing the Midline
Children who have trouble crossing the midline typically show some of the following signs and symptoms:
- Poor pencil skills.
- Swap hands in the middle of a task such as when drawing, coloring, painting, or writing.
- Always use the left hand for performing left side tasks and right hand for the right side ones.
- Find it difficult to follow an object visually from one side of the body to the other. For instance, following text when reading.
- Struggling to coordinate gross motor patterns including skipping, crawling, and star-jumping.
If your child has shown any of these symptoms, then you should consult an occupational therapist.
How Can an Occupational Therapist Help?
When you hire an occupational therapist, she will start by evaluating your child’s strengths and weaknesses. Then, she will create a program targeted to improve specific skills that your child is weak at.
The occupational therapist will also keep track of your child’s progress and adjust the program regularly based on the results.
Like every other form of therapy, the earlier you start OT, the more effective it will be.
5 Exercises that Help Develop Midline Crossing Skills
1. Play with cars on a large path
Create a large track on the floor with blocks and make sure that it has lots of turns (both left and right). Ask your kid to drive his toy cars in this path using only one hand.
Alternatively, you can also draw a large line on paper and encourage your kid to drive on it.
2. Paint with brushes
Use adult size brushes to paint a picture with your kids. Similarly to the previous exercise, tell your child to use one hand only.
3. Figure 8 pattern
Draw either a large figure eight or infinity (side to side, not top to bottom) and have your child walk on it. If this isn’t an option due to limited space, draw a smaller figure on a board and ask your child to trace it using a finger.
4. Wash a car
As we mentioned earlier, developing a dominant hand is important for performing movements precisely. So in this exercise, tell your child to use only his dominant hand to wash the car.
5. Water the garden
Instead of using only one hand (like in the previous exercises), ask your child to hold on to the hose using both hands to water the garden. This is an easy but highly effective exercise for developing midline crossing skills.