The crowd goes wild! Your child has just swung and hit their first home run! They run around the bases and go to touch home plate. Your child is showered with high-fives from teammates on the left and right. Among other things, in order for your child to have successfully swung and hit a home run, run around the bases, and give high-fives to his teammates, your child would have to have done one really important thing… cross midline! The ability to cross midline and interact with all areas of our environment is an important skill for all of us to learn. Let’s explore!
What is our “midline”, and why is the ability to cross midline so important?
“Midline” refers to the imaginary lines that goes directly through the center of our body, splitting our body into left and right halves. At a young age, or about 2-4 months old, children should begin to track objects across their visual field and explore their feet by bringing both hands and feet to midline. At around 8-12 months old, children should start clapping and reaching across midline to interact with toys. The development of the skill of crossing midline happens gradually over time as your child grows!
So what’s the big deal about learning to cross the imaginary midline of your body? Great question! Just like the achievement of other motor milestones, being able to cross midline widens the amount of interactions an infant can have with objects and people in their environment. It is an important step to achieving areas of further development such as crawling, walking, being able to dress and bathe themselves, learning to read and write, and so much more! Research has shown that crossing midline and interacting with both sides of your environment encourages communication between the left and right sides of your brain. This communication in your brain, in turn, improves coordination, encourages the development of critical thinking skills, sensory awareness and integration, makes it easier to learn and retain information, and promotes improved body awareness.
What can I do to encourage my child to cross their midline?
There are so many great ways that you can interact with your child on a daily basis to encourage them to cross midline during play and other activities. Here are some tips to try:
For Children 0-6 months old:
- Lots and lots of Tummy Time! During tummy time, use different toys to catch your baby’s attention- You can spread toys out all around your child to encourage reaching in different directions and visual tracking across midline.
- Use both hands! Encourage your child to use both hands to reach for large objects, reach for toys, or play with games. It may also be helpful to off-center the objects that you’re encouraging your child to reach for.
For children 7 months-2 years old:
- Coloring! It may be helpful to try having your child use just one hand at a time to color or draw a picture.
- Driving toy cars! Encourage use of a wide play area with lots of turns so that your child is able to use their full environment.
- Toe-Touches! Have your child reach to touch their toes opposite their hand. You could also have them reach over the top of their head towards the sky.
For children 2 years old and older:
- Play Patty-Cake! Playing hand games or making a secret handshake would encourage your child to reach across their body during play.
- Playing catch! Catching and throwing a ball is a great way to encourage your child to cross midline. Have them try throwing the ball with you standing to either side of them.
- Sports! Playing baseball, soccer, hockey, or any other sport is a great way to encourage cross-body play.
How can I tell if my child is having trouble crossing midline?
Listed below are some tendencies and behaviors that might indicate that your child is having difficulty crossing midline. Keep in mind that these tendencies are not absolute, meaning that if your child is displaying these behaviors and tendencies, it does not definitively mean your child is having difficulty with this skill.
- No, or very little, interaction between their hands and feet as an infant
- Has difficulty visually track toys or objects across midline as an infant
- Tendency to only use their left arm or leg to interact with objects on the left side of their body, or vice versa
- Tendency to rotate their entire body to reach for an object instead of using their limbs
- Refusal of your child to use their right hand to groom the left side of their bodies, or vice versa
- Tendency to switch objects between hands to complete tasks rather than crossing midline
- Do not develop a “dominant” hand or dominant side of their body; this typically develops around or after 2 years of age
- Demonstrate difficulty meeting subsequent motor milestones such as walking, running, jumping, skipping, etc.
Questions or concerns?
If you have questions or concerns about your child’s ability to cross midline, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 773-332-9439.
Alyssa Martinez, SPT
van Hof, R., van der Kamp, J., & Savelsbergh, G. J. (2002). The relation of unimanual and bimanual reaching to crossing the midline. Child development, 73(5), 1353–1362. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8624.00476
Developmental milestones for all ages: Milestone tracking. Pathways.org. (2021, September 30). Retrieved January 19, 2022, from https://pathways.org/all-ages/milestones/
Lewis, R. (2020, September 30). Crossing the midline: Activities, research, disorders, more. Healthline. Retrieved January 20, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/health/crossing-midline#examples
The invisible line – crossing the midline. Autism Alliance. (2019, June 18). Retrieved January 20, 2022, from http://www.autismalliance.com.au/the-invisible-line/
What is “crossing the midline” all about? LeafSpring School. (2019, April 25). Retrieved January 20, 2022, from https://leafspringschool.com/development/crossing-the-midline/
Photo Credit: Eduardo Balderas via unsplash.com/photos