‘Crossing the Midline’ …Activities for Toddlers!

One of the developmental skills that we have identified as being a current concern for Ruby due to her SPD issues is the ability to cross her midline.

In simple terms this means that she is having some difficulty reaching across the imaginary line down the middle of her body with her arms or legs to perform simple tasks…she finds it difficult to ‘crossover’ basically. She tends to swap hands rather than reach across her body to perform an action.

This can also mean that she sometimes gets halfway through an action and then stops and swaps hands because she won’t reach and cross over the body. She is also yet to display a dominant ‘worker’ and ‘helper’ hand although we are slowly making progress in this area.

Sometimes she will have something in both hands and needs encouragement to put one item down to continue or start another task. ..i can see she wants to do something (e.g a puzzle) but she has a puzzle piece in both hands and is not sure how to pick up another piece or make a new space for one she already has. She needs to put something down before she can complete her tasks. This can really frustrate her so it is important that i try to include some simple activities to encourage her ability to crossover her midline.

If she continues to have difficulty with this skill it can lead to issues later on with reading, writing and coordinating the fine and gross motor skills used in everyday activities.

Because she is only 2.5 my aim is to just try and encourage her to use the right and left side of her brain and coordinate her body as often as possible with some simple yet fun activities. Even if your child isn’t having trouble crossing their midline they are still fun toddler activities that will help to strengthen this important skill!

These are just a few of our favourites so far but there are so many ideas out there for kids of all ages…i will leave a few links to pages i have found helpful at the end of this post.

Toddler crossing the midline activities

One of the easiest activities…especially on a hot day is to get outside with some dolls and do a little ‘Dolly Bathing’. I gave the toddler twosome some little soaps (lots of fine motor practice picking them up from the bottom of the bath when slippery!) and also some old pump bottles and encouraged them to hold their baby with one hand while lathering them with soap and washing their ‘hair’ with the other!
Ruby found this difficult at first because she kept trying to use only one hand which you can see in the pics below (she is on the right). After some modelling and a bit of encouragement though she began to hold her baby with one hand and reach across to wash hair and use soap. It was necessary to remind her often how to continue doing this though.

Goodness i love those little cloth nappy bottoms and muddy boots…what an ensemble!!

When painting or drawing Ruby can have difficulty because her paper slides around…i always model and try to show her how to hold her paper with one hand and draw or paint with the other….this helps to work both sides of her brain and to coordinate her movements therefore lessening the frustration. Again reminders are important as it is a new skill to learn but something that can be incorporated and focused on in many of the creative activities we do.

We also practice this skill when doing some simple cooking. Both girls love to stir with wooden spoons and mixing bowls but if they don’t hold the bowl then it is very hard to stir properly!
I encourage Ruby to hold her bowl with one hand and stir with the other in big circles that go all the way around the bowl.
This also works when just eating some yoghurt or custard from a bowl and she is getting so much better at this task now (and thankfully we have a lot less spills!)
Using everyday tasks and simple activities to encourage children to cross their midline is really easy…here the girls set themselves up in their favourite big cardboard box with the dinosaurs for some lovely imaginary play.

Ruby loves to fill boxes and pack up at the moment so i placed the box of dinosaurs on one side of her and an empty cardboard box on the other side…she had to reach into the dinosaur box , pick one up and then reach across her body to place them into the empty cardboard box without changing hands to complete the task. Note the other hand being used to stabilise the box.

 She had a lot of fun with this activity and never knew she was practicing an important skill!!

For an activity that is a little more structured and also helps with her sensory processing i set up some squishy figure 8 racetracks.
I just used old plastic sealable bags/folders that i had in the stationery cupboard, mixed up a little cellmix paste (has the texture of wallpaper paste  but is child friendly) and added a little edicol colour.
I then drew a couple of figure 8’s on white paper leaving enough width for a car space and laminated them. I slid them into the bag, added a few spoonfuls of the coloured paste and closed the bag.

Toddler car track crossing midline activity

I set them up on the table for the girls with some of their favourite cars and encouraged them to ‘follow’ the track! The idea is to use the one hand to push the car around the entire picture and cross over.
Ruby decided to explore the texture of the bags first with both hands. She followed the track with her fingers and this is exactly what i was hoping for. By moving around the figure 8 she was crossing over her hands and again using both sides of her brain.

She did find this activity challenging though as i think it was hard work for her and she seemed to need to take little breaks regularly and then come back to it. She also seemed to often need one hand on top of the other to guide the car or dinosaur around the track.

Tara really enjoyed driving her cars through the ‘squishy mud’ so it was a fantastic sensory experience too.

They had lots of fun finding the air bubbles and popping them! I left this activity on the table all day and they came back to it often. We have used them a few times since as this paste keeps well for quite a long time!
Dancing is very important here in our house….Ruby absolutely loves music and i encourage her to use her large muscles as often as i can because it is wonderfully calming for her sensory processing difficulties!
By using our DIY ribbon wands and some favourite music i can encourage the girls to shake up high, shake down low, shake side to side, shake fast, shake slow, turn around etc…lots of fun that works well to exercise crossing of the midline.
The opportunities to encourage developmental learning in this area are really all around us…we just have to provide the play opportunities!
An activity we have done a few times now which i have shared previously is our….

 Shaving Cream Car Wash!

It is a fantastic sensory activity, one which challenges Ruby as she is not to keen on the slippery texture of the foam.

However it is easily turned into a midline crossing activity by using some sponges and encouraging the girls to reach across the car to wash the foam off…reaching up high and down low, reaching across to the door etc.
Lots of fun and yet another opportunity to practice those midline skills!

One of our most recent activities was some painting on the garage doors. I simply filled a few buckets with some bright water paint and added a few different paintbrushes…i varied the length of the handles and the thickness of the brushes.

I  taped some paper top the garage doors and let them create. Unfortunately i used some of our thinner paper as i wanted large sections and it did rip quite easily (which we then had to discuss at length of course!)
The aim of the activity was to get the girls using large broad motions to paint and brush…i asked them to paint up high, reach the corners, reach over and paint the side…anything to encourage large sweeping motions with the brushes and arms.
In the first picture below you can see Ruby has one hand against the side of the door to stabilise. This is fantastic as it means she is using this hand as a ‘helper’ and communicating that she needs to use the other hand to do the painting. Very similar to the cooking and drawing activities i mentioned above.
She did revert back to using two brushes to paint each side but after some encouragement she went back to using one brush and using the large circle and brushing type strokes.
These are just some of the more basic activities we have been doing….I like to keep things simple for this age, the more complicated you try to get the more they get easily frustrated and not want to continue with the task.
Here are some other places to visit with lots of wonderful and easy ideas you might like to try if you have concerns about your toddler’s ability to cross the midline or if you just want to extend and challenge the skills they have already developed!
We Can Do All Things is one of my favourite blogs and there are many ideas to incorporate crossing the midline extension activities…here are just a few of my favourites, i really encourage you to have a wander around this lovely and often inspirational blog!
Train Up a Child shared a wonderful post about the fun of rhythm sticks and using some of the movments to encourage crossing of the midline…music and movement is always a winner with toddlers! There are some really fantastic ideas for general rhythm and movement in this post…i encourage you to drop by for a visit!

The following sites also have some easy to understand information about the importance of crossing the midline and fun activity ideas for younger and older children.
There are many more but i felt these pages offered easy to understand explanations and activity idea lists. I’d love for you to share any others you have come across in the comments below so anyone reading this post will have a few options to explore!
You will also find some ideas and inspiration on my Pinterest Boards ….
Please keep in mind when reading my posts that i am just a parent sharing some of the ideas that work for our family…i am not a medical professional or occupational therapist so please always seek professional assessments if you are concerned about any aspect of your child’s development.
I do have a degree in Childcare though and have used many of these activities to support a child’s early intervention or special needs program within a childcare setting. I’m also a mum who is learning a lot from the wonderful specialists working with Ruby so if my sharing this knowledge can be of some use to others than i am happy to continue doing so!
I have also completed a  ‘Brain Gym’ course which focuses on educational kinesiology activities to engage the right and left side of the brain…i have seen much success with these methods and will share more about the concept in future posts if anyone is interested.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments if there is something you would like to see more information on, particular play ideas for your sensory (SPD) toddler or perhaps just activities and ideas for developmental delays.
Please note i am now moderating comments due to an overwhelming increase in spam comments. Your comment won’t show up straight away but i assure you i will see it and then publish!
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Warm Wishes

23 thoughts on “‘Crossing the Midline’ …Activities for Toddlers!

  1. Hi Jode – Thank you for sharing your many useful and fun activity ideas for toddlers. I’m always looking for new challenges for my 2.5 yr old.
    I wonder if you could share with me your recipe for cellmix for the figure-8 racetrack bag? I’d love to try that out.

    1. Hi Rachel…thanks so much for your lovely words! There really is no cell mix recipe…that’s why i love the stuff! You purchase it as a powder and then all you do is add some water and whisk…need to leave it to sit for about 10 mins before using as it thickens. Here in Australia it is sold as cell mix or mix-a paste….there may be other variations too. It’s texture is a little slimy so it makes a great sensory tool!

  2. I love the activity ideas!!!! I am an occupational therapist and I want to mention that crossing midline should be developed by the age of five. It is great to be proactive with crossing midline skills though. Also, when Ruby is doing these activities, it is important that she doesn’t shift her trunk when she is reaching. Shifting or rotating her trunk when reaching across her midline is a compensation and she won’t actually cross her midline. Sitting behind her and stabilizing her shoulder of trunk can help with this compensation. I love parents that are proactive and complete activities at home to increase development of skills 🙂

    1. Thanks Holly…i actually meant to write about the midline skill being developed by age 5 as i don’t want readers to feel it needs to be fully developed by 2yrs so thanks for pointing that out!!
      Thanks also for the shifting of her trunk advice…i hadn’t been told that so it is good information and i will go back in and edit the post as soon as i get a chance!
      So appreciative of the time you took to comment and make these suggestions…thank you so much!

  3. Hi Jode,
    reading your adorable blog all the way over in Collingswood, New Jersey,USA–You are doing an AMAZING job my friend!! I am also an OT and can appreciate all the effort and creativity you are putting into your every day with your family, they are truly blessed to have such a dedicated mom by their side!
    I love magnet play, and have had alot of fun with children when i used poster board and a magnet on a paint stick held under the poster board to guide objects that are on top (such as cars, dinosaurs, colored magnet chips,anything you can glue a small magnetic dot to that is interesting to your child) you can guide your object through a street, through tropical terrain or just following a straight, wiggly or loopy line. The complexity can be as simple as free movement (this can decrease frustration for younger children)and as complex as following the letters of their name…start simple and keep it fun for your child and you will have a magical time

    1. Thank you so much Carolyn…wonderful to hear that an OT was pleased with my activities as i was a little worried as i am by no menas a professional…just trying to adapt what we learn in early intervention visits!
      Absolutely love your magnet idea…i am going to set up a simple version for the girls and see how it goes…thanks so much for sharing, i love to try new ideas!!!

  4. I think I’ve said this before but you are so much fun! My oh my, I need to do more thing with my kidlets. What you’re doing for your girls is so important and so, so special. I’m sure they will turn back to you and thank you for their wonderful childhood (with educational and developmental purpose). I love reading what you’ve been up to. I wish I could come more often but it’s really crazy at the moment. Can’t wait until it settles down some. I miss my fave blogs!

    1. Penny…you do such wonderful activities with your kids so no need to feel like you need to do more Missy!!!
      Thank you for your kind words though…some days i wonder if the activities are worth all the effort and then we visit a specialist and get positive news about how Ruby is progressing…as well as Tara and i know it is. The smile on those faces is woth the planning too! Completely understand about the time factor…don’t ever feel pressure to visit…i think we are all in the same boat my friend xx

  5. This is such an important thing… and so cool to have lots of playful ideas to gently encourage it.
    We are currently working on this skill with our 9 year olds… they don’t struggle to cross their midline, but their reading skills do not correlate with their spelling and handwriting which we think is due to ‘left/right brain disconnect’ which is related and helped by crossing the midline. For us it is things like learning to juggle and various ballet moves to encourage it.

  6. Jode, this is such a great post! Not just applicable to toddlers, I think. Helpful to kids of any age who struggle with crossing the midline. Pinned to my SPD board. Thanks for sharing these great ideas!

  7. These ideas are great for our 2 1/2 year old who had a stroke at 3 months old. She is doing great but prefers her left hand. We are always trying to do activities that take two hands. Thanks for sharing!!

  8. Our OT suggested a midline work for Jack too. Lke Ruby he would use both hands simultaneously or one hand and seem to become confused as to how to do something. Our OT had us hold him around the hips while he worked on bilateral coordination/midline activities. He has a weak core and so she wanted to make sure he wasn’t moving his core while doing the activities. It is hard to get them to use the one hand isn’t it? Jack needs a lot of reminding too.

  9. New reader and instant fan. This is totally random…. My dd initially misdiagnosed with sensory deviations, not full SPD. Turns out, wrong. Took her to a developmental eye doc and turned out the whole midline etc issue? Vision related. Glasses to correct issues and vision therapy, and instant changes. Just wondering if you checked out that angle. I had specifically asked her ot to check vision midline and she thought it was fine, but she didn’t have the eye doc knowledge. Just saying… What if.

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words Irene! So interesting that you just left this message as i have been meaning to get Ruby’s eyes checked for the past few months, there is something going on there i’m sure. So glad it made a difference for your little one…you have given me the push i needed…thank you!

    2. For sure have Ruby’s eyes checked by a developmental optometrist! She is not too young! A good eye doctor can do an exam on a 6 month old! I am a vision therapist and work with kids who have vision disorders and you would be amazed how vision problems can masquerade as other things! @ Irene, so glad that your daughter is benefiting from vision therapy. It can do amazing things! Good luck to all and great job on the blog!

  10. Hello

    I’m a volunteer with a charity preschool. May I copy some of your pictures and instructions (eg the figure of 8) to distribute to my staff to hopefully inspire them to move away from plastic stuff? Your help would be much appreciated.


  11. Hello- my son is 18m old and his sensory issues are mostly food related. He seeks out intense flavors and gets overwhelmed and ticket quickly at Mel’s time and doesn’t eat. We were hospitalized and Ina feeding tube and now working with a neuro chiropractor who brought up the right brain weakness regarding my son and have some exercises to do with him. We are struggling to get him to gain weight so I am searching everywhere to find ways to help his brain make the connections and support his sensory seeking. I would love any resources yiu may have about this specifically. I am very interested in the brain building exercises you mentioned. Thank you
    [email protected]

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