Bilateral Integration and Coordination: What is it and What Can I Do at Home?
Bilateral integration and coordination is a sign that both sides of the brain are communicating between each other and sending/sharing vital information.
There are 3 main ways that we use both of our hands in a coordinated manner:
Symmetrical: using hands together completing the same action together (ex: using a rolling pin)
Reciprocal: using one hand/leg and then the other (ex. Crawling or pulling hand over hand up a rope)
Supporting Role: using a “working hand” and a “helper hand” (ex. Cutting or threading beads)
(Symmetrical movements are easier and often will be mastered first).
A fundamental component of Bilateral Coordination is crossing midline. This is the ability to spontaneously cross over the middle of our body (usually with one of our extremities) to complete a task or reach for an item. Babies often explore their world using both hands equally, reaching for an item on the right with the right hand and vice versa. However, by the age of 3-4, most children have mastered the skill of crossing midline. At this time a hand preference or dominance will begin to appear, a clear dominance is normally made by the age of 5-5 ½. Our hand dominance helps us to develop proper hand dexterity, coordination, strength, and skills for our “working hand” and our “helper hand” to function efficiently with our daily activities.
Bilateral Coordination and the ability to cross midline are used in many of our daily activities and is an integral part of how we access and participate in our world. Individuals may have difficulty with handwriting, daily living tasks ( tying shoes, buttoning/zipping), fine motor coordination, visual motor tasks, and gross motor activities (walking, crawling, jumping…).
When working on activities at home be aware that symmetrical movements of upper extremities will be easier, while movements coordinating both arms and legs together (star jumps/jumping jacks) will be more difficult.
Simple and fun activities that promote bilateral coordination and integration:
- Zoom Ball
- Tearing paper
- Connecting and separating toys (Legos, magnets…)
- Lacing or stringing (ex. stringing cheerios, or pieces of straws)
- Playing with play dough (pulling, finding hidden objects, rolling into a ball in hands, cutting)
- Opening containers using one hand to hold the container, another to open
- Spreading butter on toast
- Jumping jacks
- Jump rope
Developing body awareness can also help to improve coordination and crossing midline.
Some fun activities that you can do with your child at home are:
- Simon says
- The hokey pokey
- Climbing on the playground (up the ladder using reciprocal arms)
- Animal walks – http://ptcne.org/walk-like-an-animal/
- Wheel barrow walking
- Obstacle courses
- Carrying grocery bags
- Taking out the trash
- Even playing twister
Childs Play Therapy: https://www.childsplaytherapycenter.com/bilateral-coordination-important/
OT Mom Learning Activities: http://www.ot-mom-learning-activities.com/bilateral-coordination.html
– Allison, Occupational Therapist