The Importance of Crossing Midline

              Crossing midline is an essential milestone in your child’s development, that plays vital role in enabling your child to complete tasks with both hands, such as tying their shoes, zipping their coat, and cutting with scissors.  However, it is kind of an abstract topic, that can be difficult to understand initially, so let me break it down for you and give you different way to work on crossing midline at home!

              Most adults can reach with their right hand to retrieve something from the left side of their body without a thought.  Just think of reaching out to shake someone’s hand or putting on your shoes and socks…most people complete these tasks automatically.  Crossing midline is the ability to move your hands, feet, and eyes not only together, but across the other side of the body. In order to successfully cross midline a child must have: control and use of both sides of their body, body awareness, core strength, eye-hand coordination, and brain communication.  For some kids, this develops automatically when they start to play with toys in infancy by banging toys together, climbing, reaching, etc.  Some babies and children struggle with this task and never fully are able to cross their body with compensated somehow, like leaning or rotating with their trunk, switching hands to during an activity (like writing or cutting with scissors). Or they continue to only use one arm on their same side of their body for the task.

You might be thinking, what does matter if they twist their trunk to grab a toy instead of reaching across their body? They got what they wanted right? While this may be true, the ability to cross midline has functional implications that could be limited.  Child with difficulty crossing midline can struggles with tasks, like: using both hands to complete self-care task, like brushing your teeth or hair or putting on a sweater, trouble with reading, writing, drawing, and cutting, gross motor skills like catching and throwing a ball, and visually scanning.

Kids that have trouble crossing midline often lose their place while writing or reading making school exceptionally difficult.  They may not be able to draw shapes, such as “+” or “x” as their peers do. Some of these children appear ambidextrous, or use both their hand equally in daily tasks.  However, they are really using two hand equally because they cannot cross midline, which can eventually lead to two unskilled hands.  Other signs your child may have difficulty with crossing midline are: having difficulty distinguishing the right from the left side of their body, completing coordination tasks like jumping jacks or scissor kicks, decreased fine motor skills, and poor eye hand coordination skills like cutting a circle with scissors.

              If you think you child may be having trouble crossing midline have no fears!  There are lots of ways to practice crossing midline with things you already have at home:

  • Clipping clothespins to shirt then having your child remove them
  • Popping bubble with only one hand
  • Reaching across for items then throwing them at a target
  • Draw large figure 8’s with side walk chalk and have your child trace cars over them
  • Cross crawls or touching your elbow to your opposite knee
  • Cross one foot over the other while walking sideways
  • Standing windmills touching your hand to the opposite toe
  • Sweeping with a broom
  • Using a plunger to propel a flat scooter
  • Swinging a baseball bat
  • Balloon tennis while holding onto the racquet with both hands
  • Scooping sand from one side of the body and into a bucket on the opposite side (can to the same for small toys)
  • Playing tug of war
  • Clapping hand games like Miss Mary Mack
  • Play Simon Says

I hope you understand the importance of crossing midline and how to help your child if they are struggling with some play ideas!  Ask your OT or PT if you have further concerns!


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