Physical development and literacy learning

A child’s physical development is an extremely important part of our daily ELC program, and each child’s competence with their physical and cognitive development is monitored to ensure development is relative to peers. Climbing, jumping, hopping, agility and muscle strengthening, coordination of arms legs, eyes and cognitive functioning, is an integral part of our learning program and a child’s smooth learning development.

Beginning at three years, we often must discuss with parents the importance of a child being able to cross their midline – this skill plays an important role in a child’s cognitive learning development and the earliest intervention is vital. Put simply, crossing the midline helps children to learn.

The term ‘midline’ refers to the invisible line running from our head to our toes, dividing the body into left and right halves. The ability to cross the midline reflects the degree of ‘bilateral’ co-ordination development a child has. Children need bilateral skills so that the right and left sides of their brains can communicate. It’s this connection that allows the two sides of the body to move together in coordination to perform a huge variety of learning and leisure tasks like reading, writing, running and riding a bike. By the time a child turns seven, they should have developed the mature midline crossing patterns that will take them through life. However, research shows that children unable to cross the body’s midline often experience difficulty with reading, writing and coordinating fine and gross motor skills (hand and body).

Extra-curricular activities such as Kindergym or swimming etc, may also be suggested to parents as a starting strategy to extend development and skill confidence. Following instructions and appropriate physical learning is vital for syncing brain and body for learning relative to peers.

It may be necessary to recommend additional support from an Occupational Therapist to enhance development with upper body strength, ‘floppy’ muscle tone, to strengthen hands for writing, extend participation/listening skills, or strategies to calm “busy” bodies to engage and learn.

If this sounds like your child, it is important not to leave it too late to take action because early intervention is key. Perceived as too challenging, some children may avoid music and movement, swimming, copying action songs, obstacle courses or pencil work etc, so encouraging lots of different activities to support physical development is vital.

Some indicators that your child is not able to cross the midline;

  • Difficulty co-ordinating gross motor patterns e.g. crawling, skipping, star-jumps, hopping, climbing, crossing arms across the shoulders repeatedly,
  • Switching hands when writing, drawing, painting or colouring
  • Reversing letters and numbers or finding it hard to form letters and numbers with a pen or pencil
  • Writing on the left side of the paper with their left hand and on the right side of the paper with their right hand
  • Using different feet to kick a ball/no dominant side

Below are some activities that you can try at home to develop skill with crossing the midline and bilateral abilities;

  • Threading beads, cutting and pasting, folding paper
  • Totem tennis – bat and ball crossing of the body
  • Placing finger puppets on one hand and encouraging your child to remove the puppets with the opposite hand
  • Playing action games like Simon Says
  • Playing Animal Walks i.e. crab crawl, frog jump, bunny hop
  • Making streamer or ribbon circles and patterns in front of their midline (use two hands together or one in each hand)
  • Marching games using their arms and legs
  • Drawing or writing on a horizontal surface i.e. chalk board, mirror, white board
  • Placing stickers on one arm and encouraging your child to remove them with the opposite hand

Confident and strong midline crossing is a very important aspect of your child’s learning, so please speak to your child’s teacher if you are concerned about their development with this. Educators will happily suggest strategies to support learning potential.

Penny Kerr

ELC Teacher