Bilateral Coordination: Why Bilateral Coordination Delays can Lead to trouble in the Classroom
This article provides information on how to help your child with bilateral coordination. 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.
How long has it been since you thought about how both sides of your body work together? Do you remember the first time you tried to rub your belly and pat your head at the same time? Do you remember as your child first learned to roll over, crawl, walk, run, or skip? These are things that most adults take for granted until they have a child learning how to do it for the first time. Learning how to use both sides of our body at the same time, either to do one task or two tasks at the same time, is valuable. We need to learn to balance on one foot to kick a ball or kick our children’s shoes out of our way when we’re carrying groceries through the front door.
Our children also need to learn valuable bilateral coordination skills. Believe it or not, they use it on a daily basis in the classroom. While taking notes or writing an essay, they must stabilize the paper while they write or they must hold the paper steady as they cut it into different shapes. If your child can already do these types of activities, it’s a good indicator that both sides of their brain are working together and communicating properly for higher learning.
Delays in Bilateral Coordination
Children who struggle with bilateral coordination have difficulty tying their shoes, drawing, writing, crawling, walking, riding a bike, and often appear clumsy or uncoordinated. They may also have underdeveloped visual motor skills, fine motor skills, poor hand-eye coordination, and issues with their vestibular system. Crossing the midline also plays an integral role in bilateral coordination. If your child can’t cross the midline, this means they aren’t building the neural connections in their brain for higher functioning tasks. This is why you may see your child struggling to read from right to left.
How to help with Bilateral Coordination
If your child has difficulty crossing the midline or if they haven’t developed their bilateral coordination skills, there are several activities you can do at home to help them develop these skills.
As your child learns to use his or her body on both sides, together and separately, they learn how to follow patterns, track words on the page, improve handwriting and follow directions.
Games Using Hands
Let’s first get your child started by doing activities with their hands. Here are a few suggestions.
Throw a ball back and forth with your child. Toddlers usually throw underhand first. Encourage your child to throw the ball up instead of downward if they throw it underhand. Help them track the ball with their eyes to also improve their visual tracking skills and hand-eye coordination, which also develops their bilateral coordination.
Blow bubbles and have your child try to pop them. Change the direction you’re blowing the bubbles so your child moves to pop them. Encourage your child to pop the bubbles with opposite hands and switch back and forth to bilateral build coordination on both sides.
Hit a balloon back and forth to each other. This can be fun at any age, but it is especially great for toddlers since balloons move slowly than balls, which will keep them from getting discouraged. It is also great for children who are underdeveloped and don’t have the “body readiness” for larger balls and other objects. This activity helps your child with hand-eye coordination and allows them to determine the distance between them and the balloon (proprioception). The balloon will fall at a slower pace than a ball and won’t pop as easily as the bubbles.
Instead of painting with paint and a brush, have your child paint with pudding and their fingers. A great way to incorporate bilateral coordination is to have them use both fingers to draw an object at the same time. For example, two circles with both the right and left hand. This may be tricky, but it will help your child use both hands at the same time. Painting with their fingers can also improve their fine motor development and strengthen their fingers, wrists and hands for pencil grip and handwriting. Another reason to use pudding is because it’s edible, washes out easily and is a great tactile activity for sensory integration. It is also one of the few times that it’s OK to play with your food.
Games Using Feet
To further develop your child’s bilateral coordination, help them use their feet as well as their hands. Working their vestibular and proprioceptive systems through movement improves their attention and focus in the classroom.
Swimming is a great way for parents to help their child with bilateral coordination. It allows your child to use both the arms and legs while in the pool or at the beach. Help your child kick their legs together in the pool and use both their arms to tread water. If they are old enough to try the butterfly stroke, it will encourage them to use both their arms and legs together as a way to incorporate bilateral coordination. Swimming also provides opportunities for your child to build their core muscle strength used for better posture in the classroom. For infants, it’s a great way to incorporate tummy time so they can develop their neck muscles, postural muscles and motor responses for learning development and greater brain activity.
Have your child kick a soccer ball back and forth, alternating the ball between both feet. Dribbling is a great way to encourage bilateral coordination in addition to other soccer drills that help kids cross the midline, develop direction, and gain body awareness as they become familiar with the strength needed to kick the ball to their teammate. Soccer is a sport that solely focuses on the feet, which is important for children who tend to be uncoordinated or clumsy.
Hopping on one Foot
Cut out a few stepping stones with construction paper and place them on the floor. Have your child hop on one foot, jumping from one stepping stone to the next. When they complete this activity with one foot, make sure they hop back with the opposite foot.
Games Using Feet and Hands
Activities using both the feet and hands together and separately not only strengthens your child’s bilateral coordination, it may also improve their core muscle, posture and muscle tone. This is important for copying notes from the chalkboard, sitting upright in their chair, lifting their head to see the teacher and strengthens other important gross motor skills needed for performing better in school.
This takes more coordination than we might like to admit. The first time a child tries to jump rope, the rope usually hits the child’s feet first. That’s OK. The child is learning to use his or her hands to move the jump rope around. Then, he or she will learn to step over the rope, then they will jump over the rope, and finally, they will put it all together to jump over the rope as it spins over the child’s head and toward the child’s feet. Cool, isn’t it?
Hopscotch forces your child’s hands to throw the rock first and then use their feet to balance during jumping and landing. Have your child switch which hand throws the rock. When your child first tries hopscotch, it’s ok for him or her to land on both feet instead of one foot. Work up to one foot, both feet spread a part, and other foot patterns.
Obstacle courses are one of the best activities for your child’s learning development. This exercise involves the hands and the legs for bilateral coordination. Feel free to get as creative as possible. In the obstacle course you create, include crawling, jumping, running, hopping, and any other toys or objects that will make it fun for your kids.
How to Help Bilateral Coordination
As you monitor your child’s development, if you notice your child has issues with their bilateral coordination, sensory, auditory, vestibular, or visual systems, which prevent them from fully developing, they may need additional help to enhance their learning behavior, attention and focus, and fidgeting in the classroom. You may also 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 your child struggles with any number of these issues, it could be an indication that the nervous system is underdeveloped.
To try more activities that may help your child’s physical literacy, join our video membership. The video membership provides the following three options:
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Depending on what option works best for you, each series is typically only $1 per video. Each video series allows you to track your progress and reach certain goals you set with your child. To join, 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
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