Crossing the Midline

Sitting cross toe touch

What is it?

The midline is an imaginary line drawn from the head to the feet that separates the left and the right halves of the body. Crossing this midline means that a body part (e.g hand or foot) is able to spontaneously move over to the other side of the body to perform a function.

Examples

  • sitting with legs crossed
  • games that encouraging patting body parts on opposite sides of the body
  • cutting and pasting
  • folding paper
  • drawing and painting
  • successfully intersecting lines to draw a cross without switching hands
  • reading or writing from left to right
  • twister
  • catching bubbles

Why is it important?

The ability to cross the midline is important on a physical level, as well as on a cognitive level.

On a cognitive level, an inability to cross the midline may indicate that the left and right sides of the brain are not communicating well together. Each hemisphere performs different tasks and therefore it is important for both hemispheres to communicate and coordinate learning and movement.

On a physical level, when your child spontaneously crosses the midline with the dominant hand, then the dominant hand will get the practice that it needs to develop strong fine motor skills. If your child avoids crossing the midline, both hands will get equal practice at developing skills, but fine motor skills may not develop sufficiently. If both hands are being used equally, the child may end up with two mediocre hands instead of one strong, specialized hand.

Assessment

Crossing the Midline challenges include:

  • switching hands when writing, drawing, painting and colouring
  • using left hand for activities on the left side of the body and the right hand for activities on the right hand side, instead of using dominant hand all the time
  • rotating upper body to the opposite side when reaching across the body
  • poor reading skills
  • difficulty coordinating cutlery during meals
  • poor drawing, colouring in and writing skills
  • using different feet to kick a ball, instead of the dominant foot all the time
  • difficulty coordinating gross motor movements (e.g. climbing, crawling, star jumps)