Bilateral coordination, also called bilateral integration, is the ability to use both sides of the body simultaneously in a coordinated and organized manner.
This is an important skill for children to develop as it allows them to improve gross motor skills and perform tasks such as writing, using scissors, and tying their shoes with both hands working together.
Why Is Bilateral Integration Important For Children?
Bilateral integration is important for children because it can help them improve their everyday skills.
Bilateral integration is needed for the development of any gross and fine motor skill that requires the use of both sides of the body together.
Gross motor activities such as playing sports, jumping, skipping, clapping etc. all require bilateral coordination skills.
Fine motor activities such as writing, drawing, and using scissors require bilateral coordination.
This can make it easier for them to participate in everyday activities. It can also help them feel more confident and independent.
Benefits of Bilateral Integration
1. Improved Coordination
Improved coordination is one of the very first benefits that children usually experience with bilateral integration. With improved coordination comes better balance and movement. All of these skills are important not just for everyday life, but also for participation in sports and other activities.
2. Improved Balance
Working on two sides of the body at the same time also helps improve balance. This is an essential skill for many activities, including walking, running, and biking. It can also help prevent falls and injuries during your child’s development.
3. Improved Movement
When children have better coordination and balance, they typically have better movement as well. This means they can move more easily and with less effort. This can make activities of all kinds easier and more enjoyable.
4. Increased Independence
With improved skills comes increased independence. Children who undergo bilateral integration therapy often become more confident and independent in their abilities to communicate effectively. This can carry over into other areas of their lives, such as school, academic performance, and social interactions.
5. Better Overall Function
The benefits of bilateral integration don’t stop at skills-related improvements. Often, children who undergo bilateral integration therapy see an overall improvement in their functional abilities.
This means they are able to do more things independently and with less effort. Bilateral movements can be extremely important for children as they grow and develop.
Different Types of Bilateral Integration
Bilateral coordination can be segregated into three types:
This type of bilateral coordination occurs when both sides of the body are doing the same thing at the same time. An example would be patting your head and rubbing your stomach.
This type of bilateral coordination occurs when one side of the body is doing something different than the other side. An example of symmetrical movements would be kicking a ball with one leg while keeping the other leg still.
This type of bilateral coordination occurs when both sides are working in a rhythmical motion to achieve a common goal through reciprocal movements. An example of reciprocal body awareness would be clapping your hands.
This type of alternating bilateral coordination occurs when one side of the body moves while the other side is stationary. An example would be pedaling a bicycle.
This type of bilateral coordination occurs when one hand is doing the task while the other hand is just providing support.
An example would be using a spoon with your left hand to feed yourself while your right-hand holds the bowl.
Which Type of Bilateral Integration Is Best for My Child?
The best type of bilateral integration for your child will depend on their specific needs and abilities.
Your pediatrician or occupational therapist can help you determine which type of bilateral integration would be most beneficial for your child.
They may also have specific exercises or activities that they recommend to improve bilateral integration skills.
Activities That Help With Bilateral Integration
With these exercises, your child uses both hands at the same time to perform the same activity.
Rolling With a Rolling Pin
Your child first squeezes the playdough with both their hands, which is asymmetrical activity.
Then, have them roll the dough out with a rolling pin. This takes coordination and balance as they need to keep the dough even on both sides.
Playing On Real Instruments or Toy Instruments
When you play a song on an instrument, both hands are performing the same task at the same time.
Have your child try playing a song on toy instruments or even pots and pans. This will help improve their bilateral coordination skills.
Jump on a Trampoline
This is a great symmetrical activity that also helps with balance. Have your child jump on one foot and then the other, or jump with both feet together.
As they get better at this, have them try different types of jumps with their own feet.
With these exercises, one side of the body is doing something different than the other side.
This activity is a great way to work on asymmetrical bilateral coordination skills. Place a balloon in front of your child and have them squeeze it with one hand.
Once they have mastered squeezing it with one hand, have them try it with the other hand.
Picking Up Small Objects With One Hand
This activity helps improve bilateral coordination in the hand that is picking up the objects. Have your child try picking up small objects like beads or coins with one hand.
Once they are able to do this easily, have them try it with their other hand.
With these exercises, both sides of the body are working in a rhythmical motion to achieve a common goal.
Clapping Your Hands
This is a great way for your child to improve their bilateral coordination skills. Have them clap their hands together as fast as they can.
You can also try clapping your hands with different rhythms.
Patting Your Head and Rubbing Your Stomach
This is a great way for your child to improve their bilateral coordination skills and cognitive function.
Have them pat their head and rub their stomach at the same time. You can also try doing this with different rhythms.
With these exercises, one side of the body moves while the other side is stationary.
Pedaling a Bicycle
This is a great way for your child to improve their bilateral coordination skills.
Have them pedal a bicycle as fast as they can. You can also try pedaling a bicycle with different rhythms.
Walking on a Balance Beam
This is a great way for your child to improve their bilateral coordination skills.
Have them walk on a balance beam. You can also try walking on a balance beam with different rhythms.
This is a great way for your child to improve their bilateral coordination skills. Have them swim laps in the pool. You can also try swimming with different strokes.
Some other activities that can help your child in the process are:
Creating an obstacle course
Create an obstacle course for your child to complete and improve their fine motor skills. This will help improve their bilateral coordination and visual perceptual skills as they will need to use both sides of their body to navigate through the course.
Working on puzzles
Puzzles are a great way for children to work on their bilateral coordination skills.
Have them try different puzzles that require them to use both hands to complete, thereby improving their bilateral coordination skills and motor planning.
Pulling, Pushing, and Carrying Objects
Get your child to try and move heavy objects from one place to another.
This will help improve their bilateral coordination skills as they will need to use both sides of their body to do this.
This activity also helps develop great muscles.
Good bilateral coordination skills are an important asset that helps your child coordinate and balance both sides of their body using the same movement.
There are many activities that you can do at home to help improve your child’s bilateral coordination skills like climbing stairs, riding a bike, and tying shoes.
Talk to your pediatrician or occupational therapist to find out which type of bilateral integration would be best for your child.
They may have specific exercises or fine motor activities that they recommend to improve bilateral integration skills.
Mcilroy, T. (2022). The Simple Guide to Bilateral Coordination + 30 Activities. Retrieved 11 March 2022, from https://empoweredparents.co/bilateral-coordination/
The Best Bilateral Coordination Activities for Kids – The OT Toolbox. (2022). Retrieved 11 March 2022, from https://www.theottoolbox.com/bilateral-coordination-activities/
What is bilateral coordination and why is it important? – Child’s Play Therapy Center. (2014). Retrieved 11 March 2022, from https://www.childsplaytherapycenter.com/bilateral-coordination-important/