# Cross-Lateral Movements: All About the Midline of the Body

## Find out how cross lateral movements, or cross crawl exercises, can boost learning by crossing the midline of body.

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What are cross-lateral movements? Are they the same as cross crawl exercises? What is the midline of the body? Why is crossing the midline of the body during activities important? Keep reading to find out and discover the science behind these valuable movements and their power in education. Plus, we’re sharing some of Math & Movement’s cross-body movements and explaining how they boost learning.

## Cross-Lateral Movements (AKA Cross Crawl Exercises and Cross-Body Movements)

Cross-lateral movements are any actions that require coordination from both sides of the body. Also known as cross crawl movements or exercises, these actions involve opposite sides of the body working to perform a calculated motion together.

Crawling is one of the earliest cross-lateral movements humans perform in life. A baby’s leg will move forward while the opposite arm moves forward. Cross-lateral movements involve limbs on one side of the body doing something different than the limbs on the other side of the body.

Cross-lateral movements or cross crawl exercises can also refer to motions that involve crossing the midline of the body. We’ll officially define the midline of the body next but think of these motions as ones in which one side of the body moves to the other side. In the Math & Movement program, we refer to these motions as cross-body movements.

## Crossing the Midline of the Body

So, what exactly is the midline of the body? While standing, picture an imaginary vertical line separating your body into two halves. The line would pass through your nose, your belly button, and between your legs to the floor. This is the midline of the body.

The brain is divided into two hemispheres. The left hemisphere controls the right side of the body, and the right hemisphere controls the left side of the body. Exercises that involve crossing the midline of the body utilize both hemispheres of the brain simultaneously.

The two hemispheres of the brain communicate with each other through the corpus callosum, a thick band of nerve pathways that acts as a bridge between them. The corpus callosum allows the two hemispheres to exchange information and work together in a coordinated way.

## Why are Midline Crossing Activities Important?

Cross-lateral movements are unique because they activate both hemispheres of the brain. Physical activities that involve crossing the midline of the body strengthen the connection between the two hemispheres.

Crossing the midline is beneficial to the brain, essential physical skills, and learning overall. The physical coordination required for cross-lateral movements equates to cognitive coordination. When both hemispheres of the brain are activated, cognitive function is boosted, which makes learning easier.

Since the brain is in a prime state to process new information with both hemispheres active, cross-lateral movements can be very helpful for students in the classroom!

Carla Hannaford, PhD, a researcher on the interplay between the brain and the body and the author of Smart Moves, Why Learning is Not All in Your Head, says that movement is vital to learning.

“Movement awakens and activates our mental capacities,” Hannaford says. “Movement integrates and anchors new information and experience into our neural networks. Moving while learning increases learning.”

## Benefits of Cross-Lateral Exercises

Cross-lateral movements and exercises that cross the midline of the body offer many significant benefits. Find out how you can aid your children, your students, and even yourself by including these exercises in your regular routine.

#### Improve Coordination and Motor Skills

When someone can get two parts of their body (and both halves of their brain) to work together to perform a controlled and accurate action, they are considered physically coordinated! Improving physical coordination takes practice, and cross crawl exercises can help.

Furthermore, cross-lateral exercises can help improve gross and fine motor skills. Gross motor skills involve using larger muscles to perform motions and tasks like walking. Fine motor skills include using smaller muscles to perform more precise motions, such as writing.

Refining coordination and motor skills can be particularly beneficial to small children who are still learning how their bodies work. With some intentional cross crawl exercises, children can tackle daily activities with more ease – whether that be tying their shoes (fine motor skill) or kicking a soccer ball into a goal (gross motor skill).

#### Increase Brain Activity

As previously mentioned, cross-lateral movement activates both hemispheres of the brain and wakes up the corpus callosum between them. Physical activity boosts blood flow and oxygen levels in the brain. This gets the brain functioning at optimal levels!

Additionally, during exercise, the brain produces a protein called BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor). BDNF improves the function of neurons and encourages their growth. Cross-body movements keep the neural pathways between each half of the brain firing off and continually passing information through. With all this increased activity, the whole brain is in its prime state for processing information!

Take a look at these brain scans of students taking a test. The scan on the left shows students’ brain activity after sitting quietly for 20 minutes before the test. The scan on the right shows students’ brain activity after walking for 20 minutes before the test. Which brain do you think is most ready to retain and recall information? (The active one!)

#### Boost Confidence

Regular practice of cross-body exercises can boost self-confidence, too!  Children with the necessary coordination and motor skills to tackle new activities feel better about themselves. For example, a student who attends dance classes and practices their moves regularly will be very happy with themself when they can perform a new waltz perfectly!

This confidence boost can also be highly beneficial when tackling new academic concepts. Movement-based learning strategies can help present new information in a way that students can understand while making the lesson engaging, active, and fun. Plus, movement helps reduce anxiety surrounding academics and school.

Cross-body movements give students that big brain boost for learning. When students realize they can learn new concepts successfully, they will feel more confident about themselves!

## Movement Makes a Difference

Now you know that cross lateral movements and physical activity, in general, benefit the brain, the body, and the learning process. Movement-based learning strategies, or kinesthetic learning, implemented in schools can make a huge difference for students.

The traditional classroom often only caters to visual or auditory learners. School days consist of sitting still at desks for long periods of time. However, many students are kinesthetic learners. Kinesthetic learners understand new information best when it is presented to them in a way they can feel or touch. Through movement, these learners can interact with and experience new information. Plus, every student could benefit from more exercise throughout the day.

Click the button below to see our student data that illustrates how movement-based learning in the classroom really makes a difference in test scores, engagement levels, and learning mindsets!

## Cross-Body Exercises for the Classroom

The Math & Movement program is a multi-sensory approach to learning based on research that supports kinesthetic strategies. Our educational activities and products are meant to supplement a school’s existing curriculum. One large component of our program is using active math movements throughout the school day.

Active math movements are short physical exercises that allow students to move while simultaneously practicing their math skills. These movements do not require any materials. Many of our active math movements are cross-lateral movements.

Add in these quick cross-body exercises throughout the school day as brain breaks. Alternatively, use them during lessons to cement concepts into your students’ memories. These movements are great for waking up sleepy minds after lunch, preparing students to take a test, or reducing stress during challenging moments. They’re also great for livening up faculty meetings with other teachers!

#### Climbing Trees

This movement helps students practice one-to-one correspondence by pretending to climb trees.

Stand up. Reach your left hand up and cross it over to your right side. Count aloud, “One.” Then, reach your right hand up and cross it over the left. Count aloud, “Two.” Continue the movement and the counting pattern to 10, 20, 50, or 100!

#### Race Car

This movement can be done while sitting or standing. Try it with your students to practice skip counting by 2s!

Pretend to place your hands on the steering wheel. Steer to the left and whisper, “One.” Clap and say “TWO!” loudly. Steer to the right and whisper, “Three.” Clap and say, “FOUR!” loudly. Continue the pattern.

Allow your students to make sound effects to make the activity even more engaging. For example, say, “Vroom, one! …Vroom-Vroom, FOUR!”

#### Doggy Dig

Your students’ imaginations are a great tool to use with these active math movements. Try pretending to be dogs while skip counting by 4s.

Pretend your hands are dog paws! Dig to the left by your foot with both paws and whisper, “One.” Next, dig to the right by your other foot and whisper, “Two.” Then, dig in front of you and whisper, “Three.” Clap and say loudly, “FOUR!” Continue on to forty.

Again, encourage students to be creative and don’t be afraid to add in a “woof!” or two.

The Math & Movement Training Manual for Elementary Schools has over 250 movements like these to energize students. Simply enter your email below to get your own copy sent to you for free!

Get started on cross-lateral movements with your students and watch learning become fun and lively! Plus, your students will reap the benefits of movement-based learning.

## Movement isn't just for recess

Want to get started with movement-based learning right now? Enter your email to get our training manual with over 250 active math movements. No materials necessary!

See how simple adding movement can be!