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Crossing the Midline Exercises to Strengthen Arms and Legs for Brain Integration
This article contains activities for crossing the midline for better learning. Affiliate links are included for your convenience. Integrated Learning Strategies (ILS) is a learning and academic center. As a reminder, ILS is not a health care provider and none of our materials or services provide a diagnosis or treatment of a specific condition or learning challenge you may see in your child or student. If you seek a diagnosis or treatment for your child or student, please contact a trained professional who can provide an evaluation of the child.
As you may already know, crossing the midline is very important to your child’s learning development. It’s a key element to helping our children flourish and learn in the classroom as they get older. You may remember in our earlier article that the midline of our body is the imaginary line that runs from our head to our toes, splitting our bodies down the center and dividing us left to right.
Helping your child cross the midline as they grow is very important for their brain’s development. Midline crossing activities are often tied to higher learning skills such as speech, language, handwriting, reading, tracking objects, math sequencing, sensory integration, body awareness and other important skills for critical thinking. It’s also important for helping children retain information, improves attention and focus and allows them to listen to the teacher as they give directions (auditory processing).
Crossing the midline helps the right and left sides of the brain together. If we only work one side of the brain, the other side may become weaker, which could cause gaps in learning. Learning tools that come naturally for some children (organizing thoughts on paper, executive functioning, writing, comprehension and sitting still in a chair) may not come so easily to others who can’t cross the midline.
How to know if my child can’t cross the midline
If your child can’t cross the midline, you may see some of the following signs:
- Uses right hand activities on the right side of the body and uses left leg activities on the left leg of the body.
- Has trouble with tracking words from right to left
- Poor fine motor skills (pencil grip, handwriting)
- Has trouble switching different feet and arms in sports.
- Had developmental delays as a child (crawling, jumping, skipping)
- Poor muscle tone (neck, arms legs) and balance and coordination
- Switches hands when drawing, painting, coloring
Crossing the midline activities using your arms
If your child struggles to cross the midline, there are several integration exercises you can do at home to help improve the left and right sides of their brain. After your child has mastered these activities, read “Why Crossing the Midline Helped this Child Listen to his Teacher” for more exercises.
The exercises below are for the arms.
Peas Porridge Hot
Crossing the midline activities don’t have to be boring or difficult and you can even make a game out of them. For this activity, you will only cross the midline with your arms and hands. Sit down with your child on the floor or a soft surface and play Peas Porridge Hot. Sit in front of your child and complete the clapping motions that go with the exercise (crossing the midline).
If you don’t know the words, click here.
Midline Crossing with Stretchy Bands
What you will need:
As we continue with midline crossing activities for the arms and hands, here are a few you can try with stretchy bands.
Balancing with Stretchy Bands
Make sure your stretchy bands are tied together at the end (making a circle). When you are ready, have your child take the stretchy band in both hands and bring their right arm over their head to the left side of the body (so your right arm is touching their right ear). Then help your child transfer their arms to the other side of their body with the same exercise. Keep doing this exercise if your child struggles to cross the midline.
When your child has mastered this exercise with their arms, add the legs with it. As your child crosses the midline with their arms, have them lift their opposite leg and balance on one foot for a few seconds before alternating both hands and arms to the opposite sides of the body.
Stretchy Band Scoot
For this exercise we will be sitting on the floor. You can sit side-by-side with your child. Take your stretchy band and complete the same exercise above with your arms alternating back and forth from the right to left sides of the body.
When your child has mastered this exercise sitting on the floor, add the legs with it. While your child alternates their arms, have them lift one knee off the ground and switch legs as they switch arms. Make sure the opposite leg is working with opposite arms. For an extra challenge, have your child complete the activity with their arms while scooting their bum across the floor. This will build their core muscle while crossing the midline.
Crossing the midline exercises using your legs
Now that you have tried the exercises that work your arms, you can now cross the midline with your legs and feet using these activities below.
Grape Vine Walk
This exercise is similar to the grape vine. Have your child start with their feet together and help them cross their right foot over their left foot. When they bring their feet together again, now have your child cross the right foot behind their left foot (front to back pattern). They should do this exercise all the way across the floor.
Remember, when they have completed the activity on the right side of their body, they need to go back the opposite way using the left side of their body.
Leg Lifts with Ball
What you will need:
This exercise can be really tricky for younger children, so you may have to work up to it. Start by having your child hold the ball in their right hand. They are going to loop the ball under their left leg using their right hand. When they have looped the ball from right to left, have your child take the ball in their left hand and loop it under their right leg.
As your child gets faster and better at this activity, they are now ready to bounce the ball. Instead of your child looping the ball through their legs, they will now bounce the ball with their right hand and swing their left leg over the ball. Have your child alternate arms and legs with this activity.
More Crossing the Midline Activities
As you monitor your child’s development, if you notice they can’t cross the midline, they may need additional help to improve their learning in the classroom. Without additional help, you may continue to notice delays in your child’s learning or side effects that can cause toe walking, W-sitting, bedwetting, poor balance and coordination, underdeveloped vestibular and proprioceptive systems, and trouble with motor planning.
If you still feel your child has not developed the necessary skills for learning readiness, there is more you can do to help.
The Integrated Movement Activity Center provides parents and therapists with step-by-step videos to strengthen all areas of the body and the brain. Parents and professionals can use the activity center to help their kids and students “awaken” the brain for higher learning development.
For more information or to enroll, click here.
Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning challenges achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs