Kindergarten class in Quito, Ecuador

Homolateral Movements are probably the movements I spend the most time developing in my daily Brain Gym® Club. Each morning about 140 kids come to the gym after announcements to do about 20 minutes of Brain Gym and to join in movements from songs from our various CDs.

This is a picture of a little boy in the kindergarten class in Quito, Ecuador, showing me his best Homolateral movement when I presented and taught there a few years ago. I love that he dressed up for the “Canadian Teacher” visiting his class. I was teaching him the actions, “left with a kick and left hand punch,” from the song “Catch a Brain Wave.” I remember how proud he was that he could do the movement without falling over. What a great gift to see the joy on his face playing with our songs!


The body’s midline

So often educators (with good intentions) go right into having children try cross lateral movements, i.e., touching left hand with right leg, and find that the child is not successful. What is often seen is a child trying to do cross-lateral movements, but touching same arm and leg together because they are not ready developmentally to cross the vertical midline. The midline of the body is an imaginary line that runs down the body (see illustration at right), separating it in half vertically from head to toe, thus dividing the body into right and left halves.

When first performing Homolateral movements, it is best to start by sitting or lying on the floor; starting on the floor takes away the challenge of balance so the child can better focus on the Homolateral movement pattern. Here is a picture of Olivia at the age of 2 years using her right arm to grab her right leg.

Start by sitting or lying on the floor

Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen of Body-Mind Centering describes Homolateral movement as asymmetrical movement of one upper limb and the lower limb on the same side.  It is important that the child learns to differentiate the right side of the body from the left. Bonnie goes on to describe that one day, a baby, propped high up on her arms, tips off balance and catches herself with one sided-support. Homolateral patterns involve a major shift in both weight-support (stability) and coordinated use of the limbs (mobility.) At this stage, each side of the body can now operate independently of the other, utilizing push-pull patterns. It does so with the arm and leg on one side of the body pushing or pullingin concert. Core support in the torso reorganizes accordingly.

Demonstrating stability and coordination

Homolateral Movement: Side/Side Push/Pull

Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen clearly explains that these developmental phases (Spinal Activation, Homologous Movement, Homolateral Movement and Contralateral Movement) do not unfold in a clear-cut linear sequence. Maturation comes in a series of overlapping waves, with each new development supported by previously developed strength and coordination. One phase does not cleanly give way to the next in either motor or cognitive ability, and there is no fixed or standard age at which these developments “should” occur.

When we were designing the movements for our routines/songs, I probably spent the most time making sure we had a large percentage of Homolateral Movements in each song. I cannot stress enough how important this stage of development is for the young child. Homolateral Movements set the stage for the child to acquire Contralateral Movement: their ability to access both sides of their brain and body.

Here are some fun things you could try at home or at school to help integrate Homolateral Movement:

* Gallop like a horse (gallop with left foot leading; switch then gallop right foot leading).

* Lift your right knee up and down and lift right arm and right knee together.

* Hop on the left foot 4 times, then switch feet and hop 4 times on the right foot (helps with the ability to shift weight from one side to the other). Try hopping forward, backward, side to side.

With a Partner:

* Partners push together with right hand and right foot.

* Push with left hand and left foot.

* Reach high with right hand, right foot kicking in front, then left hand and left foot kicking in front.

* Reach with hand and foot simultaneously on the right side, then left side.

* Push with the right hand and right foot.

* Push with left hand, and reach with left foot.

If you have the opportunity, just sit back and watch a little child and how they move. They are the best little learners and problem solvers. We have a lot to learn from them.

All the best,

Liz J-T

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