What is the Midline?

Imagine a line that starts from the top of your head and draws straight down to the point between your two feet. This figurative line splits your body into left and right halves and is known as the midline.

The term ‘crossing the midline’ depicts the movement of a body part over the midline from one side to the other side of the body to complete a task.

Why is crossing the midline important?

When children cross their midline, they are using both sides of their brain to co-ordinate smooth, controlled, complex movement.

  • It is needed for tasks that involve both hands, where they work together to do a job
  • It is important to combine movement patterns that cross the body for daily tasks such as reading, writing and tying shoelaces

Benefits – Tumble tots and the midline

Crossing the midline activities (via Tumble tots) also develops children’s gross motor skills (incl. coordination and balance).

-Gross motor development supports children’s social engagement and development with their peers.

-A child with reduced gross motor skills can have impacted attention and working memory. The child can be too preoccupied coordinating themselves that they are not retaining the information they need in their working memory. Attention and working memory are necessary for completing the more complex activities of daily living such as dressing or writing (e.g. knowing the sequences of dressing themselves or having enough attention to complete a writing task)

Quality Area 2, Health, Standard 2.1- Each child’s health and physical activity is supported and promoted.

How does crossing the midline promote the acquisition of reading & writing

Activities that provide opportunities for children to cross the midline reinforce the pathways between cerebral hemispheres. This supports fundamental fine motor skills, which in turn aids the development of hand dominance, as well as enhancing a child’s coordination and learning (ie. reading – the ability to track letters along the line of a page). 

When children are not able to cross their midline (and don’t have hand dominance), learning to write becomes a struggle because they now have two less skilled hands, rather than one stronger, dominant hand.

Difficulty crossing the midline can also impact reading, writing and language.  When children have trouble visual tracking moving objects, from one side to the other it then delays their ability to read. Being able to track left to right is a critical skill when reading

Necessary building blocks for crossing the midline

  • Bilateral integration – This is using both sides of the body at the same time.
  • Core strength or muscles of the trunk needed to stabilise your child’s body so that they can use their arms and legs with control.
  • Trunk rotation
  • Hand dominance – this allows advanced movement across the midline for tasks such as writing.
  • Planning and sequencing – ability to complete multi-step skills.
  • Body awareness/sensation – information from the body’s joints/muscles tell the brain about the body’s position.

The problem with not crossing the midline during early childhood- Neurological

-Neurologically, lack of midline crossing could result in poor communication between the left and right sides (hemispheres) of the brain.

-The left and right side both like to work in isolation and crossing the midline requires communicate between both sides (corpus callosum involvement).

-Activities that require you to cross the midline fully engages your brain (cerebral cortex) which can cause mental fatigue. It is recommended that children regularly complete activities that cross the midline to assist in both hemispheres communicating well to facilitate and strengthen the neural networks to coordinate movement and learning

The problem with not crossing the midline during early childhood – Physiological

-The dominant hand needs to reach over the body to complete most fine motor tasks. crossing the midline can assist strengthening the dominant hand’s ability to complete fine motor skills. Up-skilling the dominants hand ability to reach over can increase its strength and coordination required for fine motor tasks.

-If both hands are being used equally then the development of a dominant hand can be delayed and consequently delay fine motor skills. Conversely, as a child gets better at reach over and understanding where their body is in space, their coordination and confidence improves.

-Crossing the midline also requires an adequate level of core support and strength to allow your child reach over to their other side (trunk rotation) when completing a task.

Evidence of problems crossing the midline

  • Child swaps hands when doing activities, e.g.  drawing/painting, etc.
  • Delayed hand dominance – use their left hand for activities on left and right hand for activities on right, with no crossing over.
  • Rotate their body rather than reach across the imaginary midline.
  • May have difficulty visually tracking an object – i.e. following text when reading.
  • Have difficulty with complex gross motor skills – star jumps, skipping.
  • Problems tying shoelaces

Crossing the midline- activity ideas

Balls- Simple Passing Relays

Any object could be used, as long as the child passes and receives the object with both hands.  Make sure that they are sitting cross-legged.

Balls- Back-to-Back Passing

Children sit back-to-back and pass a ball around to each other.  This action could be done 5 times in each direction as a warm up for other gross motor activities.

Lazy 8 / Infinity Loop

Using “Lazy-8”’s has long been a popular way to help a child to cross the midline.  Vertical surfaces work best – use a blackboard, whiteboard or even an outside wall!  Children can trace over loops with multiple chalk colours or drive a toy car around the “racing track”.

Small World Play

Small world play with small characters, animals, vehicles, and so on helps to cross the midline. If based around the children’s interests, they may spend some time immersed and involve an imaginative storyline (the cars racing around a track, two dolls talking to each other) where two objects are interacting.

This encourages two-handedness and crossing the midline to have the objects interact.

Clapping games

These midline crossing games not only build rhythm and coordination but encourage lots of reaching across the body and using opposite hands.

You may remember Miss Mary Mack and Patty Cake- for more ideas- https://empoweredparents.co/clapping-games-for-kids/

Long Visual Motor Worksheets

You can make your own, with any pattern and theme – just draw a path for your child to follow, and then have your child trace over the path with crayons (or wipe off markers if you laminate the path). Keep the path centred in front of your child, and he/she will need to cross the midline to complete it.

Other activities to cross the midline include Yoga, the board game- Twister, playing football &/or soccer, Simon Says, drawing a big rainbow, paying with streamers and doing activities such as sweeping and dancing.