Bilateral Coordination – The Inspired Treehouse


Bilateral coordination means using both sides of the body together in a coordinated way.  Scroll down to learn more about how to support the development of this skill for kids.

Time and time again this summer, we’ve heard parents and therapists asking:

“How can I help kids improve their bilateral coordination?”

Bilateral coordination, using both sides of the body together, is definitely a buzzword in the therapy world.  It could be because more and more kids are being diagnosed with Developmental Coordination Disorder

OR….

Maybe it is because we are all coming back out into the world after the COVID pandemic and seeing how the lack of exposure to important skill building opportunities like using the playground and attending PE class is impacting kids!

Red Flags for Bilateral Coordination Difficulties

How can you tell if a child has poor bilateral coordination?  Here is a quick look at some of the everyday tasks that may indicate that your child has difficulty with bilateral coordination:

-Difficulty with cutting with scissors

-Difficulty with handwriting

-Having a hard time tying shoes

-Difficulty with dressing skills like pulling up pants or putting on socks and shoes

-Difficulty with clothing fasteners like buttoning, zipping or snapping 

-Clumsy movements

-Difficulty catching a ball

-Unable to pedal a bike

-Awkward clapping

3 Types of Bilateral Coordination

Bilateral coordination can be viewed in 3 different ways.  The first is symmetrical.  Symmetrical movements are using both sides of the body at the same time to accomplish a task.  An example would be using a rolling pin with both hands to roll a pancake out of play dough.  

Alternating is the second way to look at bilateral coordination.  This type is when one side of the body does the movement and then the movement is repeated on the other side of the body.  An example of alternating bilateral coordination would be crawling.  One side of the body moves forward then the other to accomplish movement across the room.  

Finally, there is leading and supporting.  This is when both sides of the body are required for a task but each side does something different.  For example, when your child colors, he should stabilize the paper with one hand while moving the crayon with the other.

When all of these categories of coordination come together, a child’s movements are smooth and require much less effort! 

How to Improve Bilateral Coordination Skills

Improving bilateral coordination takes lots of consistent practice.  But, working on this skill can be fun and can be done with playful activities that many kids enjoy on a regular basis at home and at school.

Here are our top 15 ideas for practicing bilateral coordination skills everyday.

ROLLING PIN

It takes two hands to use the kitchen staple (and a good dose of core strength, too).  Grab your favorite color playdough, some bubble wrap (bonus sensory play) or whip up some sugar cookie dough and play away! 

HAND CLAPPING GAMES

This childhood game takes zero equipment and can be done anytime, anywhere!  We bet there are a few favorites from mom’s past on this list and maybe a few new ones to add to the mix! Check out our free printable hand clapping games!

GRAB A BALLOON

Play a game of keep it up but the rule is that you must use both hands to touch the balloon at the same time!  How may taps can you get in a row?  Click here for our other fun balloon games.

DO THE DISHES

What kid doesn’t love to play in a pile of soapy bubbles?  Put him to work with a washcloth and a few spoons or plastic plates to wash.

STRINGING PASTA

Nope!  We aren’t going to eat it.  But, we are going to lace it!  Grab some rigatoni and a piece of string and have your child make you the most beautiful necklace by lacing the pasta one by one!

SCISSORS

Cutting isn’t just for paper!  Slow your child down to practice the skill of cutting using both hands by having her hold a piece of playdough rolled into a log.  She can then snip off pieces of that log one by one.  We like to say we are making pasta!

A BROOM

It takes two hands to sweep!  Get your little one involved in some clean-up duties by offering up a broom or a small dustpan and brush.  We love to play “Unicorn Poop” by scattering some sprinkles in a small area on the floor and having kiddos sweep them up into dustpans.

WINDOW WASHER

Use some window or dry erase markers to write letters or numbers on a window.  Give your child a washcloth or wipe for each hand and have them erase two letters/numbers at the same time as you call them out.  This would work for any academic skill (shapes, colors, sight words, etc). 

PILLOW FIGHT

Get the whole family in on the action and start an epic pillow fight.  You must keep both hands on the pillow for optimal swing!

MAGAZINES

Grab some old magazines and have your child tear them up!  Make it purposeful and add another bit of bilateral coordination practice by offering up a glue-stick and piece of construction paper for them to make a beautiful collage.  If that’s too much work, try crumpling up those torn magazine pages and playing a game of basketball with their homemade balls and a trash can! Find other ways to use magazines to support development here.

LEGOS

Loved by almost every kid I know, these little blocks are perfect for practicing bilateral coordination. 

LAUNDRY

A pile of towels or washcloths has to be folded by someone!  Let your kiddo help! 

BASKET PUSH

Once that laundry is folded, load up the basket and have her push it around the house using both hands.

MAKE A DRUM

Use some wooden spoons and grab a few empty pots to make a percussion band!  Hands drumming a tabletop would work, too! 

CLIMB

Find a playground and encourage any and all climbing.  Up and down the ladders or stairs.  Even up the slide!  

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Lauren Drobnjak is co-author of The Inspired Treehouse blog and a pediatric physical therapist who currently practices in the educational environment. She has been a physical therapist for 18 years, with 17 of those years specifically in pediatrics. Her drive to make a difference in the lives of kids has led her entrepreneurial spirit in the direction of creating opportunities for play-based wellness and child development. She is a busy mama of 3 who thrives on chaos. To come down from the stress, Lauren enjoys exercising like she’s still 20, yoga, chocolate, a great book, browsing Pinterest, and anything crafty!

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