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What does “crossing the midline” mean and how does it affect my child?

Mar 3, 2022 | Children

Imagine there is a line that runs down the centre of your body, called the midline. Moving our right arm or leg across this midline to the left side (vice versa) is referred to as “crossing the midline”.

When children can cross their midline effectively, they are using both sides of their brain to coordinate smooth, controlled and complex movement. This skill develops gradually from an early age. Babies follow a moving object with their eyes across the midline around 3-4 months and begin reaching across the body by 6-7 months. The ability to spontaneously cross the midline continues to develop and plays an important role in developing a strong preferred hand to complete more complex, refined tasks such as drawing, putting socks on, brushing teeth, buttoning shirts and tying shoelaces.

You may notice a child has difficulties with crossing the midline if he/she often swaps hands when writing or drawing and uses their right hand for activities on the right side of the body and left hand for activities on the left side. He/she may rotate their trunk to the opposite side rather than reaching across the midline. The child may also have difficulty visually tracking an object (e.g. following words when reading) and completing gross motor activities (e.g. star jumps, skipping).

There are some fun ways to help your child cross his/her midline:

• Engage them to use both sides of their body at the same time such as carrying a plate, skipping, beating a drum, catching and throwing a ball, riding a bike and threading beads.

• Help your child strengthen his/her core muscles such as animal walks and crawling.

• Play fun activities together such as Twister, Simon Says, Tug of War and crafts e.g. cutting and pasting, origami.

Author: Kaylee Cho – Occupational Therapist