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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Crossing the Midline: Bilateral Coordination

One issue that can develop with young children is an inability to cross the midline. This means that a child will not take their hands or arms across the center of their body. For example, if you are holding something in your left hand and you want to pick something up off your desk that is on your left you generally use your right hand to reach across and pick it up.


Children who have trouble crossing their midline will either not reach for it, scream, or if you are lucky they will simply change hands or put the original object down. It is good to encourage children to develop this skill early because it helps them develop the connections between the left & right sides of their brain.


To promote this skill get your child to reach for objects just outside their grasp, or have them draw a line vertically down a piece of paper and have them color the left side with their right hand.


Improving bilateral coordination also helps with fine motor skills, object tracking, and overall better balance. Using the Rain Stick activity described below, have them hold the paper down while they cut around from one side to the other. You can also put on some music and get them to do a dance as you cross your left hand to the right side of the body and vice versa. Then get them to do it with their feet. For a change of pace, try this with paper streamers. You can also hand them materials in such a way as to get them to exercise this basic but important skill.


Make your Own Rain Sticks


Children love the sound of rain and splashing in the rain puddles when it is all over. With a Rain Stick they can recreate the sound themselves over and over again! My children made these Rain Sticks in preschool and they adored them.


Here is what you will need for each Rain Stick:
  • One tube from a paper towel
  • Strips of cardboard
  • 1 piece of sturdy paper (or two if it is easier for your child)
  • Tape
  • 1/4 cup rice
  • 2 Tablespoons of seeds or beans, popcorn, dried peas, or lentils (work best because they are small but heavier than the rice)


Instructions:


Using a cereal bowl (or other handy circular object) have your child trace two 4-inch circles on a piece of paper. Once they trace the circles, have them cut the circles out using safety scissors (they might need some assistance with this). Then, have your child lay one paper circle on the table and put a tube on the paper so that the paper is covering one of the tube ends. Hold the tube in place while your child folds up the paper.


Have the child hold the paper while you secure the tape. Make sure you tape it well enough so that the filling doesn't escape! The next step is to cut and insert the cardboard strips. First cut them into 1 inch strips. You can use a ruler to draw the lines and then have your child cut them using the safety scissors. Once you have the strips, fold them back and forth like a fan and then put them into the tube one at a time.


Make sure each one gets to the bottom before you add the next one. Fill the tube up to the top with cardboard strips and then pour the rice and seeds into the tube. Once filled, you can put the second paper circle on top and tape it up like you did the first one. Don't forget to let your child do as much of the work as he or she can.


Finally, decorate your rain stick using paint, markers, and/or stickers. You can also glue little treasures to it like feathers, glitter, confetti, pom poms or anything that your imagination desires. If you think it will be easier for your child, they can decorate the sticks before they are filled or even before you put it together by coloring the tube and paper prior to assembly.

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