Crossing midline is the ability for our bodies to cross that imaginary line running straight down from the middle of our head to our toes, otherwise known as our “midline”. Crossing midline happens all the time, like when we scratch an elbow, cross our legs, or read a book. Crossing midline helps build neural pathways in the brain that are important for various motor and cognitive skills. When children have difficulty with crossing midline, they may have difficulty with skills like reading, writing, self-care tasks, and gross motor activities.
Coordinating both sides of the body can be difficult for the child who avoids crossing midline. Often, these children have not yet established a hand preference, and you may notice that they switch hand dominance while writing, coloring, eating, or throwing.
Signs of difficulty with crossing midline include:
- Switches hands when writing, drawing, painting and coloring
- Uses left hand for activities on the left side of the body and right hand for activities on the right-hand side
- Rotates their trunk to the opposite side when reaching across the body
- Has difficulty tracking an object from one side of the body to the other
- Has poor reading skills
- Has poor pencil skills
- Uses different feet to kick a ball
- Has difficulty coordinating gross motor patterns (crawling, skipping, jumping jacks)
To help develop efficient crossing of the midline, provide children with a variety of two-handed (bilateral) activities. Any activity that requires them to bring their left (hand/foot/eye) over to the right side and vice-versa will increase this skill. A simple way to practice crossing midline is to switch up the set up of a familiar or preferred activity. Below are some examples:
- Place puzzle pieces on one side of the body, and place the puzzle board on the opposite side.
- String beads, and place the beads on both the left and right sides of the body, have the child switch which hand reaches for the bands, ensuring they cross midline each time
- Cross crawls: stand tall and touch opposite hand to opposite knee (and switch)
- Stickers: place stickers on one arm, and have your child remove stickers with the opposite hand