If you’re a therapist, Educator or parent, you may have heard the term “crossing the midline” before. But what is it, and why does it matter in your child’s development?
What is “Crossing the Midline”?
The easiest way to explain crossing the midline is to imagine a straight line in the middle of your body going down from your head to your feet. You can refer to this imaginary line that divides your body into left and right as the “midline.” The term “crossing the midline” refers to moving a body part over the midline from one side of the body to the other side to complete a task (Blackmore, 2021).
For example, if you needed to pick up a toy from close to the left side of your body and put it next to your right side, this would require you to cross the midline. Your brain coordinates movement on both sides of your body, and crossing the midline allows your brain to communicate with both sides.
Crossing the midline is a skill that develops early in childhood and is an essential part of a child’s growth, progressing their core strength. It is vital to gross motor development and helps children with their balance, posture, and coordination as they grow.
Your child’s core muscles are located in their abdomen and lower back but extend through the hips, pelvis, and shoulders (Drobnjak, 2022). These muscles span a large area of their body and help maintain good balance and posture. Gross muscle skills in toddlers and older children are crucial for controlling and coordinating movement.
Gross Motor Development
Gross motor development is an important part of your child’s progression during early years.
Development is acquired through skills that use large muscle movements and involve the entire body, such as running and jumping. These skills require strength and coordination to complete them (First 5 California, n.d.).
Here are some examples of gross motor skills:
- Playing games such as jumping rope, hopscotch, tag, and hide-and-seek.
- Going down slides or climbing ladders
- Tossing, catching, and kicking balls
- Walking and running
A child’s gross motor skills develop through a series of milestones. Crossing the midline is a crucial milestone in this progression. When children cross the midline, both sides of their brains are working together in unison to develop better coordination. The ability to cross the midline is a precursor to many other gross motor skills like crawling and walking.
For example, as babies mature, they begin to exhibit gross motor development such as rolling over, scooting, crawling, and eventually walking. Later, as a preschooler, the skills develop further as the child learns how to hop, jump, skip, and gallop (Brennan, 2021).
Crossing midline, core strength and the importance of gross motor skills in early childhood
Crossing the midline is a significant developmental milestone for a child. When a child crosses their midline to perform an action, they are using both sides of their brain (Therapies for Kids, 2021). Both sides of the brain are working together in unison to develop better coordination. This allows for other skills such as using both hands simultaneously, and more advanced tasks that come later like reading, writing, drawing, and tying shoelaces efficiently (Brennan, 2021).
The basic idea behind this is that each side of our body has information that needs to be shared with the other side. This information is shared through nerve pathways that connect both sides of the brain (Blackmore, 2021). When we cross the midline, we use muscles on one side of the body to cross over to the opposite side of the body – for example, when we move our right arm across our body and touch something on the left side. Activities like reaching for a door handle or buckling a car seat belt are both crossing midline examples (Lewis, 2020).
Crossing the midline is also essential when developing balance and agility for sports. It is important for daily living and establishing independence (ABC Pediatric Therapy Network, 2020).
So, while it might seem like a simple task, crossing the midline is actually highly sophisticated! And the many benefits for crossing midline cannot be underestimated.
What to do if a child shows problems in crossing the midline?
If your child has difficulty crossing the midline, you can help build those skills through play. There are lots of crossing midline activities for preschoolers – here are some exercises that cross the midline to help get you started.
- Play games like tag, where your child has to move to the other side of their body to tag someone.
- Roll a ball across the midline for your child to catch with the opposite hand.
- Encourage your child to practice using both hands when dressing, catching a ball, threading, or riding a bike.
- Help your child strengthen their core by playing “Row, row, row your boat”, or riding a bike.
- Integrate crossing the midline into daily activities like dressing and bathing.
- Playing catch. Hold a ball in one hand and have your child toss it to you using the opposite hand. Do this on each side so that they can practice crossing the midline with both hands.
- Play games that involve actions – like “This Little Piggy”, “Around the Garden”, and “5 Little Speckled Frogs” – and use your child’s hand to demonstrate the actions on their opposite fingers or toes.
- Encourage your child to reach down with one hand and touch their opposite foot.
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We think that the physical components of our early learning environments should meet each child’s physical, social, emotional, language, and cognitive needs. Through a variety of activities and age-appropriate play materials that are altered to fit individual interests, we cater to children’s developmental requirements and provide them with many options.
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ABC Pediatric Therapy Network. (2020, May 22). The importance of crossing midline. ABC Pediatric Therapy. Retrieved April 5, 2022, from https://www.abcpediatrictherapy.com/the-importance-of-crossing-midline-in-children/
Blackburn, P. (2021, March 11). Three simple reasons kids need core strength. Pop, Hop & Rock. Retrieved April 5, 2022, from https://pophopandrock.com/three-simple-reasons-kids-need-core-strength/
Blackmore, A. (2021, August 10). Why is crossing the midline important? Centre Of Movement. Retrieved April 5, 2022, from https://www.centreofmovement.com.au/what-is-midline-and-why-is-crossing-the-midline-important-for-your-childs-brain-development/
Child’s Play Therapy Center. (2014, May 30). Core Strength, why it is important for your child. Child’s Play Therapy Center. Retrieved April 5, 2022, from https://www.childsplaytherapycenter.com/core-strength-important-child/
Dan Brennan (Ed.). (2021, October 25). Fine Motor Skills: Examples, milestones, and Problems. WebMD. Retrieved April 5, 2022, from https://www.webmd.com/baby/what-are-some-examples-fine-motor-skills
Drobnjak, L. (2022, February 22). The easiest core strengthening exercises for kids. The Inspired Treehouse. Retrieved April 5, 2022, from https://theinspiredtreehouse.com/child-development-core-strengthening-for-kids/#:~:text=The%20core%20muscles%20are%20the,the%20activity%20a%20playful%20purpose
First 5 California. (n.d.). Gross Motor Skills. First 5 California | California’s parenting website. Retrieved April 5, 2022, from https://www.first5california.com/en-us/articles/gross-motor-skills-newborn-baby-toddler-preschooler/#:~:text=Examples%20of%20gross%20motor%20skills,of%20a%20gross%20motor%20skill
Lewis, R. (2020, July 29). Gross motor skills: Examples, vs. fine, activities, more. Healthline. Retrieved April 5, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/health/childrens-health/gross-motor-skills
Therapies For Kids. (2021, February 23). Importance of crossing the midline. Therapies For Kids. Retrieved April 5, 2022, from https://therapiesforkids.com.au/importance-of-crossing-the-midline/#:~:text=Crossing%20the%20midline%20is%20important,%2C%20writing%2C%20and%20tying%20shoelaces