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What is “Cross Patterning”?

By the age of 3 or 4 years old, a child “should” have mastered the bilateral skill (using both sides of the body together) which is known as “crossing the midline” or “cross patterning” This is the ability to move one hand, foot, or eye into the space of the other hand, foot or eye.

We cross the midline when we scratch an elbow, cross our ankles, and read left to right. Whilst we don’t like to pigeon hole kids into what they should or shouldn't be able to do by a certain age, as an average, research suggests that 3-4 is a good target for this skill.

Boxingtots padwork

Crossing the midline of your body helps build neural pathways in the brain and is an important development skill that is required for the appropriate development of various motor and cognitive skills in children.

Children who have difficulty cross patterning often have trouble with skills such as reading, writing, completing self care skills and participating in sports & physical activities.

Establishing a “worker hand” and a “helper hand” is a sign that the brain is maturing and is strongly correlated with the ability to cross the midline. Both sides of the brain need to talk to each other for the “worker hand” and the “helper hand” to work together and compliment each other.

At Boxingtots, we don’t try to establish a dominant hand in younger boxers, we will use prompts such as “which hand would you hold your pencil in at school or nursery” or “choose your favourite most comfortable hand to use”

Coordinating both sides of the body can be difficult for the child who avoids crossing midline. Often, these children have not yet established a hand preference, sometimes using their left and sometimes using their right to draw, colour, write, eat, and throw.

Boxingtots activity

Children who have difficulty crossing midline may appear ambidextrous because they are often observed using both hands, but they may actually have a hidden processing issue.

Both sides of their brains are not communicating, resulting in decreased coordination, decreased motor control of movements and difficulties achieving higher level skills. Often, these children end up with two unskilled hands

To develop the ability to cross pattern, it is recommended to use

  • Bilateral integration skills (using both sides of the body at the same time).

  • Core stability and trunk rotation: The muscles of the trunk that help to stabilise the body so the arms and legs can be moved with control.

  • Hand dominance: The consistent use of one hand or foot most often allows refined movement control to develop.

  • Planning and sequencing: The ability to follow multi-step instructions to achieve a defined outcome or end point.

  • Body awareness: The information that muscles and joints send to our brain that tells us about our body position.

Activities at BoxingTots to help develop the ability to cross pattern:

To help develop efficient crossing of the midline, we provide children with a variety of two-handed (bilateral) activities that include;

  • Reaching for bean bags, balls or other objects across midline and throwing at a target.

  • Stretches to touch opposite body parts

  • Moving around whilst in a boxing stance

  • Head movement practices

  • High knees whilst punching the air

  • Pad work (punching) with one or both hands (they will have to reach across their body to punch the pad on the opposite side). You may hear “cross them over” throughout your session!


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