Have you heard the term ‘midline’ before? For those of you who haven’t, the midline wall is best described as an imaginary, invisible line down the centre of the body. But don’t let its transparency fool you, a midline wall is made of steel, nothing can pass it, not one’s hands, eyes or even feet!
Do we all have a midline wall?
As babies and toddlers, yes. But by the time we are approximately 3 years old, the midline wall should be integrated, allowing for ease of movement across the horizontal plane.
What does the midline wall look like in action?
Imagine that you are looking at a seated baby boy. He has a pile of blocks on his right. He picks one up, moves it to the centre of his body with his right hand, sucks on it (optional!), puts it into his left hand, then lowers it to the ground on his left hand side. The noteworthy part of this observation is that the baby swapped hands at the middle of his body. Why? Because he is not able to cross that imaginary steel-like wall…yet!
Do all children successfully integrate their midline wall?
Hypothetically yes, short answer no! Last week I assessed 56 children at my preschool site and discovered that 27 still have an active midline wall. This trend is not isolated to my current place of work, it is consistent with what I have observed at multiple sites in my roles as an educator and consultant.
What challenges exist for an older child with active midline wall?
Getting dressed independently
Putting on socks, shoes and tying shoelaces are skills dependent upon crossing the midline. Buttons also pose a challenge when positioned at the centre of the body, a visual ‘grey zone’.
As mentioned above, a visual blank spot exists at the centre of the body when the midline wall remains. When reading, a child’s eyes won’t be able to flow smoothly from left to right. They will follow the line of print to the centre of the body, ‘loose’ the words and then have to find them again. Readers with this challenge can often be seen moving their body or book excessively in an attempt to maintain sight of the whole line of print. Energy is put into coping strategies in place of reading for meaning.
Writers with an active midline wall are required to move their body or the page in order to overcome the need to cross their hand from one side of their body to the other. They may also be observed swapping the pencil from hand to hand at the centre of their body.
Midline Activities for Parents & Educators:
Draw a giant circle in the air in front of your body
Swish a ribbon stick from side to side across your body
Pop bubbles with just one hand (requires reaching across the body. Give both left and right hands a turn)
Move your tongue and your eyes from side to side in opposite directions
Dig sand on one side of your body, then place it in a bucket positioned on the other side of your body
Move a pile of objects from one side of the body to another. Experiment with using hands and using tongs, kneeling and laying down
Draw on a wall or large easel, using water, paint or chalk to move from side to side across the midline. Masking tape or your own line can be used as a guide for the child to follow if needed
Design a large figure 8 car track, place on a fence or wall and make the cars go on a drive across the midline
Wash the car using large movements across the body
Cross pattern movements such as those found in Brain Gym (Cross Crawls, Hook Ups and Lazy 8’s)
Integrating the midline is a process, it doesn’t happen overnight. If you observe that a child can cross their midline but not consistently, it’s an indication that this journey is unfolding before your very eyes. Celebrate, encourage and continue practicing.