The importance of laterality and midline-crossing
Hand preference starts to develop between 2 – 4 years of age.
Hand dominance should be fully intact by the age of 5 years 6 months old. By now your child should use 1 hand, dominantly, for all of the tasks he performs.
If you child is still switching hands to perform tasks there might be an impairment with laterality and/or midline-crossing.
Poor laterality has a negative influence on bilateral integration (using the 2 sides of the body together to perform 1 task) and/or fine eye-hand coordination and or midline-crossing.
Only 1% of the population is truly ambidextrous most children who swap hand have impaired laterality.
If you see that your child is still using both hands to perform tasks after the age of 5 year 6 months old, take him for an assessment at an occupational therapist.
The body is divided into two vertical halves with an imaginary line. When children can cross their hand/foot from the left side onto the right side of the body, this is known as midline crossing.
When your baby was little you perhaps noticed that they would pick up a toy with one hand, bring it to the centre of their body and then transfer it into their other hand without passing one hand across the midline. This is normal for this age.
Some children feel a sense of spatial disorganization when they try to cross the midline of their bodies and thus avoid to do so.This will have a negative influence on laterality – to develop a dominant hand.
How to recognize when your child is avoiding crossing the midline
- Will swap hands when approaching the midline e.g. transfer an object/crayon from one hand to another
- Turns the page more than 45 degrees (usually more) when colouring/drawing instead of crossing the midline
- Turns his/her body in a chair excessively when writing/drawing instead of crossing the midline
- Moves a page to the dominant side when writing/drawing instead of crossing the midline
- Doesn’t develop a dominant hand; uses left hand on left side of body and right hand on right side of body
- Kicks a ball with the foot closest to the ball – not with 1 preferred foot
- Struggles to catch a ball when thrown off-center as he/she doesn’t want to cross the midline of the body with the hand/arm
- Cross dominance in eyes, hands and feet (not all dominance on the same side)
- Will choose one hand for fine motor skills and one hand for gross motor skills
Activity ideas to improve midline-crossing
Position activities is such a way that your child have to cross their midline. The non-dominant hand should be place on the table in front of the body to limit the body’s ability to turn from side to side to avoid midline-crossing
- Let your child sit by the table. Place your child’s non dominant hand on
- the table in front of his body. Place the pegs on the child’s non-dominant side and the peg board on the dominant side. The child now
- has to fetch the pegs with the dominant hand crossing the midline and
- crossing back over again to place the pegs in the peg board. The child is
- only allowed to move 1 peg at a time
- Let your child sit by the table. Place your child’s non dominant hand on the table in front of his body. Place puzzle pieces on the child’s non-dominant side and let your child build the puzzle on the other side of the table (dominant side). The child now has to fetch the puzzle pieces with the dominant hand crossing the midline and crossing back over again to build the puzzle on the other side of the table. The child is only allowed to move 1 piece at a time
- Let your child sit by the table. Place your child’s non dominant hand on the table in front of his body. Place lego blocks on the child’s non-dominant side and let your child build the lego’s on the other side of the table (dominant side). The child now has to fetch the blocks with the dominant
- hand crossing the midline and crossing back over again to build the blocks
- on the other side of the table. The child is only allowed to move 1 piece at a
- Let your child stand with his legs wide open – she is not allowed to move her
- legs. You as parent now throw the ball to her left/right side and she must thus
- cross the midline to catch the ball.
- Let your child make a big lazy 8 on a wall/floor. The non-dominant hand should be placed in the child’s midline. This hand is just there for support.Let your child make a big lazy 8 using both hands.
- Ask your child to paint the garage door using water. The child should make long strokes across their midline
- Drive cars on the floor using big arches/long strokes/driving around
- the child
- Hit balls holding the racket/cricket bat/golf club using both hands
- Hold the hosepipe with both hands and water plants
- Place targets all around your child. They are not allowed to move
- their feet. They have to hold the water-gun using both hands and shoot the targets
- Playing Twister
- Let the child place stickers on their own hand and arm and remove it with the other hand