Most of us don't think about the various skills we need to develop in order to complete everyday tasks. But whether we're writing, getting dressed, throwing or catching, riding a bike or even walking, we're using a skill called "bilateral coordination".
Bilateral coordination is another way of saying "coordinating both sides of the body to work together". When we can coordinate our limbs individually and move them in a controlled and organized manner, all kinds of actions that could otherwise not be performed can occur. Bilateral coordination is the skill that allows us to hold a sandwich steady with one hand while cutting it with the other. It's the skill that's needed to pedal downward with one foot while pedaling upward with the other; it allows us to play instruments and tie our shoes, and it's the skill we need to throw one handed.
Unlike grasping an object with both hands, bilateral coordination is critical to performing movements where one side of the body is doing something different than the other side. This is a skill that typically starts to develop by the time children are three to four years old, when they've started to become familiar with the skill of crossing the midline of the body. Before children acquire the skill of crossing the midline, they will use their right hand on the right side of the body and their left hand for things that are happening on the left side.
Crossing the midline is a critical milestone to mastering bilateral coordination. Crossing the midline is a good indicator that both sides of the brain are communicating, and it helps children practice fine motor skills on a deeper level. When your child crosses the midline, he or she can use both hands equally to develop hand dominance and even core stability. Crossing the midline is a stepping stone for bilateral coordination, and as bilateral coordination develops, the ability to spontaneously cross the midline will develop even more.
Children that avoid crossing the midline ultimately have difficulty with bilateral coordination and tend to have two weak hands rather than one dominant one.
In addition to crossing the midline, another important foundation to bilateral coordination is body awareness.
Also known as proprioception, body awareness helps us to understand where our body is in space. People with poor proprioception are more clumsy and may be fearful of their surroundings, and because they don’t receive proper feedback from their muscles and joints, they tend to have a lot of difficulty coordinating both sides of their body to complete bilateral tasks.
There are a range of important skills that need to be met before other skills to begin to develop. We carry a range of products designed to help children develop better bilateral coordination by addressing it at its foundation.
For crossing the midline skills, try:
To improve proprioception, we recommend:
To generally develop better bilateral coordination try:
Everyday Activities for Bilateral Integration:
- Spreading butter on bread
- Beading & lacing
- Playground activities
- Picking up fall leaves or seashells
- Riding a bike
- Paper cutting or tearing
- Building with legos or duplos
- Throw/catch games
- Flying a kite
- Painting on an easel
- Helping carry groceries