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Your Baby's Midline - Simple Ways To Help Their Development

If you are already wondering what on earth the midline is then you are probably not quite thinking about how it matters in development. It is something I talk about in Wrigglers classes quite often because we do lots of movements just for this reason and some that will help our Tinies too.


The midline is, quite literally, the mid line down the body. If you started at the top of your head and drew a line straight down finishing between your feet you have the midline. This matters because the two sides of your body are controlled in isolation by your brain. The left side of the brain controls the movements of the right side of the body and the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body.



So what about the crossing part. This refers to movements where you are moving part of the body across to the other side. Using your hand to touch your opposite shoulder for example.

If there are no movements crossing the midline the two sides of the brain continue to work mostly in isolation. When movements cross the midline the two sides of the brain need to communicate and nerve pathways are created and strengthened. Cross body movements are fully engaging the brain which, in a baby whose brain is growing and making new connections at an incredible rate, is really important.


In terms of development this really helps with movement, co-ordination and balance. Newborns have very random flailing movements with little control over what their limbs are doing (I love watching them though!) and in order to develop physically they need more control and better co-ordination so their movements can become more deliberate, accurate and co-ordinated. Being able to reach across the body will help with the development of gross motor skills – the big movements but using cross body movements and improving co-ordination and spatial awareness paves the way for the development of fine motor skills too.  

It might visibly not help your baby today but you are laying down the foundations for longer term development. Without good co-ordination and balance children struggle with tasks requiring concentration and with the fine motor skills. Long term this can lead to more difficulty with concentrating in school, following words on a page to read or holding and controlling a pencil. So much energy and effort goes into the gross motor skills there isn’t capacity left to focus on the other stuff.


As with all things with your baby, the more you do something the more the neural pathways are strengthened and the better the learning.


What can you do to help your baby?


It’s all well and good knowing crossing the midline helps but how are you going to get your baby to do that?


This is where so fun baby yoga can come in but actually it doesn’t even need to be ‘yoga’ this is just you moving your baby’s arms or legs. Even though they aren’t moving them consciously themselves and you are doing most of the work, it still strengthens those brain pathways and contributes to their co-ordination and balance developing.


If your little one is older (around 10 months plus) you can start to encourage them to copy you and make the movements themselves but I will come to more ideas for the older babies further down.


For our little ones you can start with really simple clapping or tapping games. Clap hands, tap toes and find a rhythm as you do so they start to feel the beat. You can add a little song if you want to and the tapping rhythm will help with language development too!

You can circle hands and feet together (think Wind the Bobbin Up), doing big circles and smaller circles to help their brains feel the difference. Maybe you also add in some fast and slow movements, fast circles and slow ones or make a point of ‘STOP’ so your baby feels what stop feels like as you freeze.


Take hold of both hands and stretch arms out wide and then across the body so baby is giving themselves a hug, repeat the open and close movement with arms coming right across the body and each time you switch which arm is at the top.


To take things a step further you can begin to co-ordinate the opposite limbs.


You can do similar tapping and circles but now using the opposite hand and foot, this usually results in hands crossing over the body to reach the foot and you can gently exaggerate that work for your baby. Your baby will be getting a brilliant brain workout now!


Maybe you use a foot to stretch over to the opposite hip and enjoy a stretch there or a hand reaches over to tickle the other side of their tummy.


As they get a bit older you can try and encourage them to stretch using balls. Hand them a ball and encourage them to put it in a box on the other side of them. They might switch hands (great co-ordination!) or hopefully they will reach across. You’ll need to demo a few times! Or could they copy you doing Round and Round the Garden on their own hand?

Lots of the things you do will be natural, when they are little and lying on the floor or on your lap it’s really natural to play with their hands or feet and adding in some more conscious cross body movements just adds a bit more fun to your play time.  

 

If you want to also focus on co-ordination and strengthening neural pathways to help the gross motor skills things like Head Shoulders Knees and Toes for co-ordinated movements are good and for the littler ones you can help them stretch their arms up and down or legs in and out; do both arms (or legs) together as well as doing one at a time.


If you find it hard to come up with ideas of how to move your baby or you don’t feel too confident moving their arms and legs then it is worth signing up to a baby class – massage or yoga to give you some new ideas for play.


If you are in the Harrow area I would love to welcome to you to Tinies or Wrigglers classes.

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