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The Importance of Crossing the Midline and Core Strength in Your Child’s Gross Motor Development

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 it is to imagine a straight line in the middle of your body going down from your head to your feet. You can call this imaginary line dividing your body into left and right parts as “midline.” The term “crossing the midline” refers to moving a body part over the midline from one side to the other side of the body to complete a task (Blackmore, 2021).

If you needed to pick up a toy from 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.

It is a skill that develops early in childhood and is an essential part of a child’s growth, including gross motor skill development. Core strength is also vital in gross motor development (Blackburn, 2021). It helps children cross the midline and helps 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 them maintain good balance and posture. Gross muscle skills for toddlers and older children are also crucial for controlling and coordinating movement.

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
  • Swimming

(Lewis, 2020)

Gross Motor Development

Gross motor development is an important part of your child’s development. Gross motor skills are large muscle movements that involve the entire body, such as running and jumping. These skills require strength and coordination (First 5 California, n.d.).

A child’s gross motor skills are developed 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, As babies mature, they begin to exhibit gross motor development such as rolling over, scooting, crawling, and eventually walking. This does not end there. They also start hopping, jumping, skipping, and galloping as preschoolers (Brennan, 2021).

Why are crossing midline and core strength so important in gross motor development? 

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 their brains are working together in unison to develop better coordination. This allows them to use both hands simultaneously and do advanced tasks later on such as reading, writing, drawing, and tying shoelaces much more 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 something behind them, such as buckling a seat belt, also require crossing the midline (Lewis, 2020).

While it might seem like a simple task, crossing the midline is actually pretty sophisticated.

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).

What should I do if my child exhibits problems in crossing the midline?

If your child has difficulty crossing the midline, you can help build those skills through play. 

Here are some suggestions:

  • 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 up, bathing, etc.
  • 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.
  • Games like This Little Piggy, Around the Garden, 5 Green and Speckled Frogs. 
  • Use your child’s toes AND their opposite hand to do actions. 
  • Encourage your child to reach down with her hand to her opposite foot and recite the verse with you

At Kids Club Early Childhood Learning Centres, we help parents ensure that their children are healthy and developing properly. We make it a point to create a warm and welcoming setting for everyone. Each room and outdoor space is specifically designed to satisfy the unique needs of the children in each age group.

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.


If you want to enrol your kids in a loving and nurturing school that provides high-quality long daycare and tailored play-based fitness programs, we’re the team for you. We deliver all of this and more with the support of our handpicked educators and expert management team. Contact us here.


References:

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

Miss Jess

Center Director @ Kedron