Touch your right hand to your left elbow. Brush your teeth with your opposite hand. What do these two activities have in common? The answer is a simple, yet important one. They encourage our young children to cross the midline.
What does crossing the midline mean? Think of the body as having a line down the middle, right where the bellybutton is located! Imagine then a right side of this line and a left side of the line. When a child can easily cross their midline, it means he or she can reach over from one side to perform a task on the other side of the body. Here is an example: a child is sitting “criss cross applesauce” on the floor, doing Legos and reaches with his or her right hand to place a Lego in a place that is nearer to the left side of the body. This child is able to cross the midline. A child who cannot do this, might put the Lego in the opposite hand or could move his or her body to perform the task.
It sounds so simple, right? But this seemingly easy task can be difficult. It is important because children who can easily and readily cross the midline are often better readers, have more writing fluency (can hold a pencil longer and with more efficiency), and often feel less frustrated. Research tells us that crossing the midline is a necessary skill.
Activities to help children cross the midline are often a part of our preschool day. We just need to be intentional and clear in our minds about these activities. We all sing with fun motions to enhance a song. When these motions involve using a hand or arm and crossing to the other side of the body, we are developing a child’s ability to cross the midline. When we give children beads to thread or streamers to swirl, we are offering valuable age-appropriate activities to develop crossing the midline. Playing on the sand table offers important opportunities to scoop sand with one hand and then dump it into a pail on the other side of the body.
Be sure to share the reasoning behind your daily activities with families. They need to know that what you are doing is not just a ‘cute’ activity but is helping to develop an important skill for future school success.
NAEYC – 2.C.04
Head Start – I.C