Reading, Writing, and Crossing the Midline
Try this: head to the bathroom or any other room in the house that has a good-sized mirror and stand up straight in front of it. Give yourself a nice big smile. Now say, "Howdy, pardner!" and give that reflection of yours a good ol' fashioned down-home wave. No, not that prim, cutesy gesture you see fluttering from the wrists of beauty queens on top of parade floats. I mean the kind of greeting you give to get the attention of a friend from across an amusement park--hand starts low and across the body at hip level and then arches in a wide circle over the head and all the way back down to the other side. Come on, give it a try. How did you do? Piece of cake, right?
What if I told you this very gesture requires a type of coordination that many children either struggle with considerably, or lack entirely? The swooping gesture you just made into the bathroom mirror required you to cross the body's midline (the invisible line running from the head to the toes and dividing the body into left and right halves), and when challenged to complete tasks using this type of movement, many kindergarten-aged children fail.
Kids unable to cross the body’s midline often have trouble reading and writing. Both of these skills require a type of coordination that comes from experience with cross-lateral motion (movement involving the left arm and right leg or the right arm and left leg at the same time, like a baby’s crawling or creeping).
So your little one wasn't much of a creepy-crawler (or crawly-creeper)? The bad news: this can result in problems with reading and writing. The good news: it’s not too late to help your child by incorporating more cross-lateral activities into her life! If she's still young enough to want to roll around and giggle with Mom and Dad, have a family slithering race across the living room floor. Or, invite your child to show you her best animal imitations--complete with swinging trunks, wobbly legs, and lots of crawling. Throw a family parade by blasting a fun CD and marching around the room, lifting knees and swinging arms.
If your child finds such activities “babyish,” you can simply spend a few minutes, a couple of times a day, standing and slowly touching opposite elbow to knee, alternating from one side to the other. It may not be as much fun as slithering like a snake, but it will still help to optimize brain function by prompting the two hemispheres to communicate with each other. And improvement in cross-lateral eye-hand coordination is something your child will thank you for later, maybe even with a wave from across a crowded amusement park.