The development of a child can be one of the most fascinating things to watch unfold. From infants mirroring movements to toddlers and children mastering high level developmental skills, the growth they experience in a short time is astounding. And while all skills are important for children to master, bilateral coordination is an important prerequisite for development of a variety of motor and cognitive skills.
Bilateral coordination is the ability to synchronize both sides of the body in a controlled manner. An important aspect of this is “crossing the midline.” This is a spontaneous movement and involves being able to cross an imaginary line that runs down the center of the body. It is key in doing simple things such as crossing your ankles and scratching your elbow.
Bilateral coordination is mostly developed through the corpus callosum, which is largely responsible for communicating messages from one hemisphere of the brain to the other. In the early months and years of life, babies and toddlers typically use both hands equally to pick up objects, depending on which is closer. Then around the age of 3 or 4, children have typically established a dominant hand and the skill of “crossing the midline” has been solidified.
A key component to the development of bilateral coordination is body awareness. This involves proprioception and refers to the ability to know where your body is in the environment without using your vision. The vestibular system also comes into play with the development of this since it is a factor of sensory integration. If these areas are underdeveloped, children may present with various difficulties.
When bilateral coordination is underdeveloped, children may appear ambidextrous. This is often because they have a processing issue in the brain. The two hemispheres of the brain are not communicating effectively resulting in clumsiness and struggles with daily living tasks involving both fine and gross motor skills. The ability to cross the midline is also necessary for visual tracking so reading and writing from one side of a paper to the other can be difficult as well as achieving other higher-level skills.
When the SKILLZ program was created, an extensive amount of research was put into the science of the brain and child development. Within each developmental level are drills specifically designed to meet the needs of that age group. To the untrained eye or unknowing parent, watching class may appear to just be another activity. However, the science of how and why drills are taught to specific groups is how SKILLZ takes training and child development to a whole new level. Activities involving jumping, obstacle courses, animal walks, and other drills that challenge using both sides of the body in opposing ways helps supercharge the development of bilateral coordination. And what’s even better, this training can potentially lead to improvements in many higher-level cross-body tasks such as reading and writing.
Engaging children in activities that constantly spark conversation between the left and right hemispheres improves brain communication. Training methods involving bilateral coordination has a huge impact on this, therefore improving motor coordination as well as cognitive skills. The more parents learn and understand the science behind this, the more active they can be in nurturing their child to their full potential.
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Author: Jennifer Salama of Skillz Worldwide.
Jennifer is a 4th-degree black belt and has been training in martial arts since 2001. She has a Masters Degree in Child Psychology and has embraced the SKILLZ curriculum because of its focus on child development and using martial arts as a vehicle to develop the child as a whole.