BILATERAL COORDINATION: ITS ROLE IN YOUR CHILDS SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL AND ACADEMIC GROWTH
Sensory and Movement experiences play an important role in our child’s development. As we can see on the brain ladder diagram, sensory and praxis: movement development is the foundation of neurological growth. Babies and children relish in learning about their world via their sensory systems and exploration through movement. As our kiddos are having fun exploring they are also building the foundation and stepping stones to higher level learning; language and communication, daily living skills, social and emotional development and executive functioning skills; skills that help us learn new information, remember and retrieve information we've learned in the past, and use this information to solve problems of everyday life.
Specific movements our children practice and explore support specific regions and interactions within our brain. As an Occupational Therapist I engage children I support in “Bilateral Coordination” movements in every therapy session. Once we understand the important role Bilateral Coordination plays in our children’s growth, I trust you will want to implement more of this aspect of motor play into your family fun routines.
What is Bilateral Coordination?
Bilateral coordination is the ability to use the right and left sides of the body together at the same time or with alternating movements. For example, when you push a stroller or pick up a large object you are using your right and left sides of the body together with the same movements. Another example of bilateral coordination is tying your shoes – you are using your right and left sides of the body together but they are not both doing the same movements.
The ability to coordinate both sides of the body together is an important skill for many motor skills. Gross motor skills such as walking, climbing stairs, running, skipping, hopscotch and jump rope all require bilateral coordination skills. Fine motor skills such as holding paper while cutting with scissors or lacing beads require the right and left sides of the body to work together. Many functional skills require both hands or both legs to work together such as buttoning, zipping, using a fork and knife, using a rolling pin and more. In addition, bilateral coordination helps to develop hand dominance (whether you are right or left-handed).
How does Bilateral Coordination Movements support Neurological Growth?
When we explore, practice and master Bilateral Coordination movements we build a “bridge” (corpus callosum) between our left brain and right brain hemispheres. This “bridge” is what allows our neurological pathways to move up the brain ladder and access higher level development, skills and learning - remember the brain ladder diagram.
Why Bilateral Coordination Skills Are Important
Developmentally delayed bilateral coordination movement patterns can directly impact a child’s focus and attention span, speech and language output, emotional regulation and accessing academic and executive functioning skills. As we now know bilateral coordination movements build the “bridge” between our two brain hemispheres, the bridge that paves the way to accessing higher level brain functioning.
Important INDEED, so let us learn how we can support our children’s bilateral coordination skills….. have fun !
Fun Bilateral Coordination Activities for Children
Here are 10 simple ideas to practice bilateral coordination skills:
1. Marching to music and clapping hands at the same time.
2. Cross crawls – touch your right hand to your left knee and then the left hand to your right knee. Repeat touching the opposite feet.
3. Traditional jumping jacks
4. Cross Country Jumping Jacks – place right arm and right leg forward jump and switch left arm and left leg forward. Try opposite sides – place right arm and left leg forward jump and switch left arm and right leg forward.
5. March in place sitting down while drawing circles in the air with both hands
6. Try a task using both hands or both hands and feet at the same time – ie: dribbling a ball with both hands, kicking a ball and dribbling a ball while walking.
7. Play hopscotch – the skill of jumping feet apart and together requires coordination of both sides of the body
8. Perform motor activities to the beat of a metronome
9. Jumping activities – jumping rope, jump up and clap hands or catch a thrown ball, jump up and touch your heels behind your bottom, jumping activities through a floor ladder or over cones, etc.
10. Animal walks that use both sides of the body – ie: crab walk, bear walk and crawling