Bilateral coordination is the ability to coordinate both sides of the body together in a coordinated fashion. From the time we wake up to the time we go to bed we use bilateral coordination to complete simple tasks like squeezing toothpaste onto a toothbrush or putting on our pajamas. Bilateral coordination is a skill that is learned early in life and is continually refined as a child ages. Babies first begin to swat at toys with both arms at the same time and as they become more skilled, they are able to more purposefully swat and reach for things. As skills develop, we start to see the arms working together as two separate parts versus together as a whole. One arm may be used to hold a toy while the other arm pushes buttons or turns gears.
As an occupational therapist, one of my main roles is to evaluate a child’s development and determine how his or her skill set impacts independence with activities they need or want to do in their daily life. Children are presented with activities all throughout their day that require both arms or both sides of the body to work together in a coordinated fashion. In early childhood bilateral coordination is utilized when holding a bottle and learning to roll or catch a ball. Being able to coordinate both sides of the body is an indication that both sides of the brain are communicating and sharing information with each other. Having good bilateral coordination allows the hands and feet to work well together. This is important for future milestones such as crawling, walking, climbing stairs and playing musical instruments. Many academic skills rely on a strong foundation of numerous skills – a major one being bilateral coordination. Reading a book requires that a child must hold the book, turn the pages, and visually scan pages left to right and top to bottom. Cutting requires one hand to hold and guide the paper while the dominant hand utilizes scissors to cut the paper.
You can take advantage of simple activities and games throughout the course of a day to encourage strong bilateral coordination. Being observant as to how your child performs certain tasks can help you determine areas of both strengths and weaknesses.
When bilateral coordination is an area of concern you may notice your child is overly clumsy or that tasks take longer than anticipated. If you feel as if your child’s bilateral coordination needs strengthening, review my list of fun toys and activities that can help improve your child’s skills with simple play.
Anna Claire is the owner of the Occupational Therapy department at Firm Foundation Pediatric Therapy in Ruston, Louisiana. Her love of occupational therapy began at a young age. She incorporates fun, creative facets as well as holistic approaches to better assist her clients in reaching their goals. She has experience in a variety of settings from a multidisciplinary center for children with Autism and communication disorders to home health and an outpatient clinic for children and adults with a wide variety of diagnoses such as traumatic brain injury, CVA, cerebral palsy, Sensory Processing Disorder and dysgraphia. Her diverse population of clients is one of her favorite aspects of occupational therapy. Due to her innate love for children, she chose Pediatric occupational therapy as her focus. Anna Claire cares for all of her clients on a personal and professional level.