News & Resources
8 Apr 2020

What is 'crossing the midline'?

Crossing the mid-line is an essential physical milestone for children and one that demonstrates normal development.

Dr Lesley Jones, Senior Advisor, Pedagogy and Practice at Affinity Education Group, spoke to us about what crossing the midline is, and why it's so important.

"The left hemisphere of the brain controls the motor responses for the right side of the body and visa versa. When children can move their arms across the mid-line of the body and coordinate muscle movement patterns (bilateral integration) in this way it is a sign that both hemispheres of the brain are coordinating together to produce smooth and controlled motor movements."

Sometimes it's easiest to think of the 'midline' as an invisible line down the middle of your body - from head to toe. Your child's brain has to work hard to coordinate actions on opposite sides of the body. This is why you will often see a child only draw on the left side of a page with their left hand, and then swap hands to draw on the other side of the page. 

Dr Jones goes on to explain, "This ability to integrate muscle movement patterns that move across the body is essential for many daily tasks such as tying shoe laces , writing and even reading (as eye movement have to track from one side of the page to the other in tandum). It is essential for tasks that involve complex muscle movement patterns involving both hands where they need to work together to perform a task."

Babies can begin to cross the mid-line with intent by about 8 months but it can take till about 3-4 years before some children do it routinely with ease. But there are simple ways to help improve your child's ability to cross the body's midline:

1. Playing games which specifically require them to complete an action with specific hands or feet - like Simon Says or Twister.

2. Encourage crossing the midline by placing a sticker on your child's left hand, and encouraging them to remove it with their right hand.

3. When performing daily life skills, make small changes to encourage mid-line crossing; such as placing their breakfast utensils on opposite sides so they have to reach over for them, or putting shoes on the wrong side of your child's body so when sitting they have to reach over.

These small actions can help work towards this important developmental milestone.
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