The development of a child can be fascinating to watch. 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 essential for children to learn, bilateral coordination is a necessary prerequisite for the 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. One key aspect of this is the ability to “cross the midline,” which involves being able to cross an imaginary line that runs down the center of the body. It is vital in such simple tasks as crossing your ankles and scratching your elbow.
In the brain, the corpus callosum is the main conduit through which bilateral processes are mediated. The corpus callosum is a physical structure that is mainly 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 usually establish a dominant hand, and by age 5 or 6, the skill of “crossing the midline” solidifies.
A component of cognitive ability that is related to the development of bilateral coordination is proprioception. Proprioception is one’s awareness of the position of one’s body in space. The vestibular system also comes into play since it is a factor of sensory integration. If these areas are underdeveloped, children may present with various physical difficulties and even social challenges.
When bilateral coordination is underdeveloped, children may appear ambidextrous. This apparent bilateral dexterity may arise because the child has 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.
During the development of the Inspire martial arts program, Chris Gehring put an extensive amount of research into the science of the brain and child development. Within each age-specific program are drills specifically designed to meet the needs and abilities of the age group for which the program was created. To the untrained eye or unknowing parent, watching class may appear to be just another activity. However, the science behind how and why we teach drills to specific groups is how Inspire takes martial arts training and child development to a whole new level.
For example, activities in our program for preschoolers between 4 and 4 years of age involve jumping, obstacle courses, animal walks, and other exercises that challenge kids to use both sides of the body in opposing ways to help supercharge the development of bilateral coordination.
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 repeatedly spark conversation between the left and right hemispheres reinforces the neurological pathways through which those conversations are mediated. Training methods involving bilateral coordination have a considerable impact on this neurological development, thereby 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 children to their full potential.
To learn more about the powerful Inspire childhood development program that uses martial arts as the vehicle for growth, or to get your child started at our North Royalton location, click the link below: