Everyone knows physical movement is an important part of a healthy life, especially in childhood. Physical activity impacts our health in many ways but did you know that one specific type of physical movement can impact a child’s cognitive and emotional development?
“Crossing the midline” requires both sides of the brain to communicate and work together. Picture an imaginary line running vertically down the center of your body. “Crossing the midline happens anytime we cross one part of our body to the opposite side. This could be reaching the right hand to tie the left shoe, crossing one leg over the other, or even reading a book when our eyes go from the left side of the page to the right,”
By age 3 or 4, children should be able to use both sides of their body effectively. When a child exhibits difficulty crossing the midline, this can effect numerous aspects of development. According to the Pediatric Therapy Center, “It can affect their ability to read. While the child is moving their eyes across the page, their eyes may stop in the middle and frequently lose their place. It also affects handwriting since a child must cross the midline in order to write from left to right; the child may need to stop in the middle of the page to switch hands. Many self-care and daily living skills require crossing the midline as well (such as putting on socks/shoes and brushing teeth). Lastly, the inability to cross midline impacts eating. Children may have trouble properly moving food around in order to chew and swallow.”
Parents and caregivers can help by encouraging this specfic type of movement with special games and activities as well as everyday routines. Growing Hands On Kids provides a great resource with crossing the midline activity ideas for toddlers, preschoolers and older children.
For babies and younger infants, try this great resource from How We Learn.