The body goes through a series of developmental movement patterns, starting with Spinal Activation, then Homologous Movement, next Homolateral Movement, and finally Contralateral Movement. As each movement pattern emerges, the other movement pattern provides support and increases the depth of integration in the body and brain.
Crossing the body’s midline
Contralateral Movement involves opposite sides of the body working together (e.g., arm and opposite leg, right hand touches left knee, left hand touches right ear, etc.). Contralateral movements integrate all the previous movement patterns. They also activate both sides of the neo-cortex.
Picture the body with an imaginary line that runs down the midline separating it in half vertically from head to toe, thus dividing the body into right and left halves.
Being able to cross the midline indicates that the child has reached the point in his or her development that the right and left side of the brain are working together. In contralateral movements we develop diagonal movements such as creeping on our hands and forelegs with the ability to transfer weight so we don’t fall over.
I love this picture to the right where little Olivia can cross over her midline with both hands to grab and discover her little foot.
Right hand touching left knee
Leanne demonstrates another example of crossing the midline, using her right hand to reach over her body to touch her left knee.
Neurophysiologist and educator Carla Hannaford, in her book Smart Moves, talks about crawling, a cross-lateral movement which activates development of the corpus callosum, the fibrous bundle of neural pathways connecting the two hemispheres of the cerebrum.
When children do cross-lateral movements (arm and leg movements that cross over from one side of the body to the other) the two sides of the brain are forced to communicate, and this strengthens the nerve-cell pathways linking both sides of the brain through the corpus callosum.
The Corpus Callosum
The corpus callosum is the largest connective pathway in a human brain. It is made of more than 200 million nerve fibers that connect the left and right hemispheres of the brain. The more connections that are made between the two hemispheres, the easier learning is for an individual.
I think one of the best descriptions towards understanding the corpus callosum is found on the website of The National Organization for Disorders of the Corpus Callosum: https://www.nodcc.org
When we created the movement-actions for our songs, it was important to include as many of the developmental movements as possible in a sequential order, to help with the integration of the brain and body. Children need to be able to cross their midline,as this is a necessary skill for reading and writing; they must be able to cross the midline if they are going to be able to work from one side of the paper to the other.
A sideways Lazy 8
When doing cross-lateral or contralateral movements, it is easier to start sitting on the floor, to take away the issue of balance. Children can play patty cake by clapping hands crossing the midline of the body. They can also cross hands and draw a sideways lazy 8.
There are so many different types of movements and games that can be played to help integrate the left and right hemispheres. I promise I will devote another blog posting to more games and actions you can do with your child or students.
Have fun playing with all these movements!
All the best,