Music therapy: crossing midline!

Imagine a line down the center of your body, this is your midline!

Crossing midline is very important for child development but is also beneficial for people of all ages.

The right side of our brain controls the muscles on the left side of our bodies and the left side of the brain controls the muscles on the right side of our body.

When we cross our midline with our arms or legs we boost communication between the two hemispheres of our brains.

Crossing midline, or cross-lateral movement, is important for learning how to crawl, riding a bike, reading, and writing, just to name a few. If a child has trouble crossing midline you may see them pass a crayon to their other hand to reach the other side of a paper, or they may turn their whole body to reach something rather than reach across their body.

During music therapy we cross midline throughout the session to develop this skill and also to keep the brain and body alert and engaged.

Here are some fun ways we cross midline during music therapy:

Drumming: By having the child (or adult) hold a mallet in one hand I will hold the drum on the opposite side so that they must reach over across their midline to strike the drum. My favorite drums for this activity are paddle drums as they have a handle. These drums come in different sizes so that when we work up to using two drums with a mallet in each hand we have two different pitches.

*When using drumming to encourage cross lateral movement make sure cross lateral movement is actually happening! Individuals that struggle with cross lateral movement may turn their whole body side to side so that their arm never actually crosses their midline.

Shakers: Shakers are a fun way to encourage cross lateral movement as well. My favorite way to cross midline using shakers is to have the child/adult hold a shaker in each hand. We then move our hands (about shoulder level) out to the sides and then cross, making an X with our arms.

Movement to music: There are many ways to encourage cross lateral movement by moving to the music. During our sessions we typically do 2-3 movement songs that engage the brain and body to build attention and increase learning. These movement songs always include at least two cross lateral movements. One movement is "Pat Cross" where we pat our knees (right hand right knee, left/left) and then cross so that we are patting our left knee with right hand and right with left. This can be very challenging for individuals that have trouble crossing their midline so start out slow.

The "hand jive" is another fun way to cross midline while moving to music. with hands out in front of our bodies and palms facing the ground we move them back and forth so that they are criss-crossing, first right over left (pulsing 2x) and then switch to left over right (pulsing 2x).

Brushing arms is both a great sensory activity and also works on crossing midline. I have children reach over with their opposite hand to "brush the dust off", brushing two times on their left and then switching to their right.

Squeezing arms (self hug) is another great sensory activity as well as a cross lateral movement. We often end movement to music activities with this movement.

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