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Left and Right - Crossing the body's midline

The body’s mid-line is an imaginary line down the centre of the body that divides the body into left and right.

Crossing the body’s mid-line is the ability to reach across the middle of the body with the arms and legs. It refers to behaviour that results in reaching, stepping, or looking across the body's midline. It allows a child to perform a task on the opposite side of the body.

It is an important developmental skill needed for many everyday tasks. This may include sitting cross legged on the floor or being able to draw across a page without swapping hands.

What are the building blocks necessary to develop the ability to cross the body’s mid-line?

Bilateral integration skills (using both sides of the body at the same time)

• Core stability and trunk rotation: The muscles of the trunk that helps to stabilising the body so the arms and legs can be moved with control

• Hand dominance: The consistent use of one hand or foot most often that allows refine movement control to develop

• Planning and sequencing: The ability to follow multi-step instructions to achieve a defined outcome or end point

• Body awareness: The information that muscles and joints send to our brain that tells us about our body position

What problems can occur when a child has crossing the midline difficulties?

  • Pencil based activities may become difficult and the child may avoid them

  • The child may become angry or frustrated when engaging in fine motor tasks that require refined movement

  • The child may not want to perform self-care tasks independently

  • Co-ordinating both sides of the body during activities

  • Noticing all details on a page when copying writing or drawing

What activities can help improve crossing the body’s mid-line?

Craft: Threading beads, cutting and pasting, folding paper

• Finger Puppets: Placing finger puppets on one hand and encouraging the child to remove the puppets with the opposite hand

• Blocks and Percussion: Getting the child to bang blocks or percussion instruments together in their mid-line.

• Twister: Playing ‘Twister’

• Simon Says: Playing ‘Simon Says’

• Streamers: Getting the child to make streamers or ribbon circles and patterns in front of their mid-line (use two hands together or one in each hand)

• Marching games using their arms and legs

• Stickers: Placing stickers on one arm and encouraging the child to remove them with the opposite hand.

Van Hof, P., Van Der Kamp, J., & Savelsbergh, G. (2002). The Relation of Unimanual and Bimanual Reaching to Crossing the Midline. Child Development, 73(5), 1353-1362.

Gallace, Torta, Moseley, & Iannetti. (2011). The analgesic effect of crossing the arms. Pain, 152(6), 1418-1423.

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