This crossing the midline activity is a way to help kids with crossing midline skills, as well as letter identification, using a rainbow theme. In the simple midline activity, children create a rainbow while visually scanning from left to right to match letters with different colors of the rainbow. It’s a letter version of our rainbow ladder that is also instrumental in helping children with underlying handwriting skills including visual motor integration and crossing the midline. Read more about midline crossing in our cross crawl resource.
This particular Kids can work on so many skills with this simple visual motor rainbow. We worked on matching printed lower case letters to cursive letters but you could do this one with upper and lower case letter match-ups or just matching upper case to upper case. Some of the underlying skills that is necessary for kids to write legibly are visual motor integration and crossing midline. This visual motor integration letter rainbow works on those skills with a colorful result.
We also used our rainbow of hues to work on the visual motor skills needed for pencil control. This activity also addresses the ability to coordinate visual input to the motor movements of the hands. Kids can work on their fine motor development with the simple rainbow activity described below.
Crossing the Midline
In another blog post, we cover more about crossing the midline, particularly with the lower body, in a midline marching activity for children.
So, what crossing the midline?
Midline of the body is an imaginary line that drops from the middle of the head, strait down over the nose, to the belly button and divides the body into left and right sides. Many movements and functional tasks occur with just one hand, like holding a phone. A user could hold the phone on one side of the body and turn their head to that direction. In that particular task and positioning, the activiy is localized to a side of the body and doesn’t cross the midline.
Other tasks occur at the midline. This includes activities such as reading a book or brushing the teeth. The dominant hand will do most of the work, like turning the pages of the the book or manipulating the toothbrush, while the nondominant hand assists in the task.
In our examples, the activity occurs mainly at midline, and there is not much crossing over of the middle of the body. However, the non dominant hand might assist by holding the book or by squeezing the toothpaste onto the tooth brush, (or holding the toothbrush while the dominant hand squeezes the toothbrush).
As a side note, many of these muscle movement patterns are not something that we think through throughout our day. The movement patterns are just automatic and natural.
That is part of muscle memory and motor planning that has been established and ingrained. Trouble occurs when there is a block to the automaticity such as difficulty with crossing the midline.
Still other activities require intense midline crossing. This includes activities where the midline must be crossed in order for the task to be completed. Activities exemplifying midline crossing include dressing the lower body or in play.
In the example of dressing, you notice that one arm reaches over the midline in order to feed the opposite foot into a pants leg. Similarly, with pulling on socks, both hands reach to one foot and the right arm crosses the midline when pulling on the sock of the left foot.
Crossing midline refers to moving the left hand/arm/foot/leg across this line to the right side (and vise versa). Crossing midline also refers to twisting the body in rotation around this imaginary line, and leaning the upper or body across the middle of the body.
Problems with Crossing the Midline
When crossing the midline is a problem, or it’s not been properly established as an automatic movement pattern, you may notice these movements instead of crossing midline:
- Switching hands during an activity
- Twisting the body to complete tasks- rotating the trunk to complete tasks
- Preferring to use one hand over the other: Using the right hand for tasks on the right side of the body and using the left hand for tasks on the left side of the body
- Mixed dominance
- Trouble with fine motor tasks that require two hands: writing, coloring, cutting with scissors, manipulating utensils, cutting with a knife and fork, etc.
- Trouble with gross motor tasks like jumping, skipping, hopping, crawling
- Trouble with laterality
- Trouble with keeping their place when reading across a page
Crossing the Midline Letter Activity
The midline letter activity described here is a beneficial way to work on crossing midline for several reasons:
- The activity encourages children to cross midline with large motions across a page
- The activity encourage visual shifting to scan across a page, incorporating crossing the midline into reading and writing tasks which can impact reading fluency and accuracy
- The activity works on letter identification and challenges children to integrate visual skills with movements (hand eye coordination)
In the crossing the midline letter rainbow activity described here, we worked on cursive letter identification.
Many times when children practice cursive writing, they do so in isolated practice settings: practicing rows of cursive letters, one at a time, and then stringing that letter into words on a worksheet.
Crossing Midline Writing Activities
But sometimes, the cursive letter fluency piece is skipped. Reading a letter or a word pairs the cursive letter with orthographic patterns so that cursive writing and reading becomes fluent.
You could use this midline rainbow activity with any letter matching exercise:
- Matching shapes or colors
- Matching letters to images that start with that letter to incorporate phonological awareness
- Matching lowercase printed letters to uppercase printed letters
- Matching lowercase cursive letters to lowercase printed letters
- Matching uppercase printed letters to uppercase cursive letters
- Matching lowercase cursive letters to uppercase cursive letters
How to Create a Rainbow Arch
Set up a rainbow arch in occupational therapy as a crossing the midline activity:
This rainbow activity can be performed in several ways. Children can work on a large scale and address bilateral coordination and midline crossing with a large piece of easel paper or butcher paper taped to a wall. Another option is to set this rainbow activity up at a dry erase board or chalk board.
To make the midline board:
- Colored markers/crayons/chalk/colored pencils-We used (affiliate link) Mr. Sketch scented markers to add multisensory learning components.
- Next, draw two vertical lines on opposite sides of the paper, or about 2-3 feet apart.
- Along the left vertical line, form letters in one format (print, cursive, lowercase, uppercase, etc.)
- On the opposite line, form either matching letters in upper case/lower case/cursive. Ensure the letters are mixed in order, so the lines need to cross over one another.
Next, work on crossing midline skills:
- To perform this visual motor letter rainbow, ask the child to start on the left side and draw an arching line to connect to the matching letter on the right side of the paper. Working on a large scale to perform this activity promotes crossing of the midline as well as visual motor skills.
2. Ask the student to start at the left line and stop at the right line when drawing their rainbow lines. When the child is making the arches, they should not start or go over the vertical lines by more than 1/4 inch. Ask them to connect the matching letters with matching colored markers.
Grade this activity by asking the child to start and end at the vertical lines without crossing over the lines. This is an excellent way to address pencil control and visual motor skills.
Rainbow Arch in Occupational Therapy
A similar version of a rainbow arch can be used in occupational therapy interventions to target a variety of skills. You can vary the activity in many ways, depending on the needs of the individual.
Try these rainbow arch ideas in OT sessions:
- Complete the midline activity by completing the rainbow in a standing or seated position. Be sure to watch for the child to compensate for midline crossing by shifting weight, rotation of the body, pivoting of the trunk, or movement of the legs. The child should remain facing forward without any of these motions noted.
- Kids can also complete this activity with diagonals of with strait lines to connect the letters.
- Address visual motor skills with the letter rainbow on a small scale as a table-top activity.
- Draw the lines on a smaller scale and ask kids to connect letters while touching but not going over the vertical lines with the colored markers.
- Use different surfaces- dry erase board, chalkboard, asphalt or sidewalk with sidewalk chalk, working on a large piece of paper or cardboard on the ground, and paper hung on a wall are all options.
- Use a variety of writing materials: If working on a dry erase surface, use Dry erase markers. You’ll need a rainbow of colors.
- Work in a sensory bin using sand or other sensory bin base materials. Letters can be written under the sensory bin, like we did with this sensory writing tray.
- This activity works well on the ground too. In that case, use Rainbow colored chalk if working on a large piece of cardboard from an old box or on the sidewalk. This option adds resistance to the activity, providing proprioceptive feedback.
- You could also use crayons, finger paints, colored pencils, sidewalk chalk, or water colors.
Need more ways to work on visual motor integration, crossing midline, handwriting, and functional skills? Grab the Colors Handwriting Kit. It comes with activities to promote functional handwriting, and multisensory learning. You’ll also get a bonus offer of fine motor activity pages.
Just print and go!
Rainbow Handwriting Kit– This resource pack includes handwriting sheets, write the room cards, color worksheets, visual motor activities, and so much more. The handwriting kit includes:
- Write the Room, Color Names: Lowercase Letters
- Write the Room, Color Names: Uppercase Letters
- Write the Room, Color Names: Cursive Writing
- Copy/Draw/Color/Cut Color Worksheets
- Colors Roll & Write Page
- Color Names Letter Size Puzzle Pages
- Flip and Fill A-Z Letter Pages
- Colors Pre-Writing Lines Pencil Control Mazes
- This handwriting kit now includes a bonus pack of pencil control worksheets, 1-10 fine motor clip cards, visual discrimination maze for directionality, handwriting sheets, and working memory/direction following sheet! Valued at $5, this bonus kit triples the goal areas you can work on in each therapy session or home program.
Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are more rainbow activities to pair with ours:
- Rainbow Alphabet Activity- Growing Book by Book
- Easy Rainbow Name Craft- Toddler Approved
- 5 Math Games using Painted Rainbow Counters – The Educators’ Spin On It
- How to make rainbow spaghetti – Sensory play for kids -Messy Little Monster
- Find the Unicorn Rainbow Sensory Bin – Inspiration Laboratories
- Taste Safe Rainbow Sensory Play – Adventures and Play
- Preschool Color Activities – Roll and Cover Rainbow
- Awesome Rainbow Experiments for Kids- Teach Beside Me
- Construction Paper Rainbow Craft from The Moments at Home
- Mixing Colors to Make a Rainbow – Mama Smiles
- CVC Word Family Rainbow Puzzles – Sea of Knowledge
- Rainbow Words – Rainy Day Mum
- Rainbow Preschool Music Craft & Song – Preschool Powol Packets
- Rainbow Fine Motor Activity from Clare’s Little Tots