April 2, 2020

We do this so often that we forget how important it is for growing children.

Crossing midline is a naturally-developed skill that allows us to unconsciously reach over from one side of the body to the opposite side. Without this ability, nearly all of our daily tasks would be challenging. We use this seemingly simple maneuver hundreds of times a day, and we don’t even realize it. Think about when we eat. How many times are we reaching for a french fry, a cup, or a utensil from the other side of the plate? Or when we drive — how many times do we have to cross midline just to make a turn? 

By 4 years old, a child should be able to cross midline and do so with ease during everyday activities. When your child cannot cross midline, it can lead to negative effects and limited development. 

Milestones for crossing midline:

  • At 3 months: Child should be able to cross midline with their eyes. 
  • At 6 months: Child should be able to reach across the body for a toy with one hand. 
  • At 8 months: Child should be able to reach both hands across the body for a toy. 
  • At 3–4 years old: Crossing midline should happen naturally and with ease during daily tasks.

Questions to ask if your child has difficulty crossing midline:

  • Does your child rotate their whole body to reach for items, instead of crossing midline?
  • Does your child reach for an item and transfer to the opposite hand in midline to use, rather than crossing midline with one hand?
  • Is your child having trouble developing hand dominance? As both hands get equal practice, the dominant hand is unable to develop precision and skill. 
  • When your child is writing or reading, do they have trouble starting at the left margin to read or write?
  • When drawing pictures, do they only draw on the middle or the same side as their dominant hand?
  • Does your child have trouble with jumping jacks, skipping, or kicking a ball using both feet?
  • Does your child have trouble visually tracking from one side to the other?
  • Was your child’s crawling delayed? Crawling is one of the earliest skills that requires crossing midline to be successful.

Here are some fun activities to help promote this skill: 

  • Any activity that requires both hands, such as catching a ball, jump rope, stringing beads and card games. 
  • Kick a ball and take turns with each foot. 
  • Pop bubbles.
  • Place objects on the opposite side of the body and prevent the other hand from reaching.
  • Ensure your baby spends as much time on their tummy as possible.
  • Have your baby crawl as much as possible.
  • Clapping games.
  • Art activities such as drawing on large pieces of butcher paper. 
  • Have your child reach across the body to get puzzle pieces. 
  • Play passing relay games while sitting in a circle.
  • Swinging a bat.
  • Play Twister, or a simpler version of the game.
  • Try skipping, jumping jacks, Hokey Pokey, or Simon Says.

Kimberly Bradley, a pediatric occupational therapist, writes our “Wiggle Room” column. She owns Kim4Kids in Metairie and can be reached at 504.517.5437. kim4kidsnola.com

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