The Significance of Crossing Midline

by | Aug 2, 2019 | Occupational Therapy

Crossing midline is a very important skill for development. Midline refers to the imaginary line that divides the human body and brain into left and right sides.  Crossing midline means reaching across that imaginary line to the opposite side of the body. We cross midline with our hands, feet, and eyes. At TEAM 4 Kids, this is a skill that our occupational therapists constantly assess and encourage. 

As adults, we should be subconsciously crossing midline daily when we are performing actions such as turning the wheel of a car, brushing our hair, donning watches, tying our shoes, writing, and reading. Crossing midline can also promote bilateral coordination, as it often consists of using both sides of the body simultaneously. The act of crossing midline creates neural pathways in the brain which provide a foundation for higher level skills.

You can find examples of activities that encourage midline crossing below.

  • Helicopters: Have your child stand shoulder width apart and have them use their right hand to touch their left toe, then bring the body back up to a standing position. Continue this activity by alternating between left hand touching right toes and right hand touching left toes. Instruct them to cross over the midline accurately and slowly.
  • Body Crosses: Standing with feet shoulder width apart, touch the right elbow to the left knee and then the left elbow to the right knee with slow and controlled movement. 
  • Infinity sign:  Draw a horizontal figure 8 on the table, on a mirror, or on a piece of paper taped to a wall or door. Position the child exactly in the middle of the figure then trace the 8 with both hands together, then right, then left. Complete 5 – 10 loops per hand. This can be especially fun by driving toy cars through shaving cream to make a “racetrack” on your table or window.
  • Simon Says: Encourage your child to reach across their body to touch their opposite shoulder, ear, knee, foot, elbow, etc.
  • Household chores: Perform activities such as wiping down table tops, washing the windows, and sweeping (picking up the dust with the dust pan) while watching for your child to cross midline while discouraging switching hands.
  • Back to back passes: This activity requires two people sitting down back to back. Using a ball or balloon, use both hands to reach over your left or right hip to pass the object to the person behind you.

The inability to cross midline can lead to developmental delays such as difficulty establishing a dominant hand. When a child is unable to cross midline, they are going to use both hands for all tasks that require reaching across the body.  This skill should develop around age 3 and a half. If you notice that your child, aged 4 years or older, is switching hands to grasp objects, is not reaching across their body, or has difficulty with any of the aforementioned skills, you may want to seek an assessment from an occupational therapist at TEAM 4 Kids.

Haley Cummings M.S., OTR/L