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What is Motor Planning?

Motor planning is the skill that helps us learn and execute a movement in order to complete a task or activity. Sensory information from the environment provides us with feedback on what the body is currently doing to then guide the body towards a desired motor action. Motor planning consists of three parts: ideation, organization, and execution of a motor task. The proprioceptive and vestibular systems are important in helping children learn to motor plan novel motor actions, as they help us determine where we are in space so that we can then adapt our bodies to the necessary postures and positions to complete tasks. Other skills such as balance, bilateral coordination, core strength, upper/lower extremity strength, visual motor coordination are all underlying skills that influence motor planning as well.

Influence of Proprioceptive and Vestibular systems:

Proprioception is a system in the body where our muscle and joint receptors process and interpret movement in order to help us identify where our body is in space. Motor planning relies on the communication between your brain and muscles in order to learn how to perform an unfamiliar movement. Vestibular input is any sense of change in direction or position of movement of the head. Vestibular input gives a child information of their movements based on their head and body positioning, including how fast or slow they are moving as well as the direction of their movement. When a child's proprioceptive and vestibular systems are not regulated, it becomes harder for children to accurately recognize where their bodies are, therefore impacting how or where to move their bodies in order to perform a task. This is because it may be harder for their brains to process and integrate sensory information appropriately, impacting their ability to complete motor actions. Providing proprioceptive and/or vestibular input (linear or rotary movement depending on the child) can assist with body regulation to improve motor planning skills.

Motor planning broken down using throwing a ball:

Ideation: Conceptualizing or thinking of a motor action

Organizing: Planning out the motor action

Executing: Carrying out the motor action

Real life example: Playing catch

Ideation: Forming idea of playing a game of catch, which consists of throwing and catching a ball repetitively with another person.

Organization: Planning how to initiate, sequence and terminate all movements as well as optimal positioning for all aspects of throwing and catching the ball.

Execution: Successfully completing all movements required to play catch.

Children with motor planning difficulties can present with:

  • Difficulty learning new things

  • Difficulty sequencing or completing actions in proper order

  • Difficulty knowing when to initiate or terminate a movement

  • Decreased problem solving skills

  • Decreased body awareness

  • Decreased bilateral coordination

  • Poor hand eye coordination

  • Completing tasks in a slow manner

  • Difficulty with handwriting skills

Dyspraxia: This is a neurological condition that impact's one's ability to conceptualize, plan, and execute movements (aka motor planning) required to complete a task or activity. Children may have the appropriate physical abilities to perform a movement, such as proper range of motion, strength, and muscle tone. Dyspraxia does not directly impact intelligence, however because learning novel items is challenging, it may impact their language and ability to complete academic related skills. In order to get this diagnosis, children must have gross and fine motor skills significantly under age level from an early age that persists as they continue to grow. It must also impact their ability to complete different everyday activities in different areas (ADLs, school, play, etc). Many children may understand how to complete the necessary movements, however are unable to perform those movements accurately or efficiently.

Gross and fine motor activities to help promote motor planning skills:

  • Obstacle courses

  • Simon Says

  • Animal walks (can incorporate into scavenger hunt or obstacle course)

  • Playing catch

  • Jigsaw puzzles

  • Twister

  • Jenga

  • Tweezer games

  • Board games (Candy Land, Chutes & Ladders)

  • Connect 4

  • Yoga poses

  • Move like me

  • Floor is Lava

  • Hopscotch

  • Mazes

Strategies to promote motor planning skills

  • Practicing and repetition of new skills are important for a child to improve their motor planning skills.

  • Have the child learn new tasks one step at a time to reduce confusion.

  • Encourage trial and error with supervision.

  • Allow for increased processing time, as some children may need more time for their brain to communicate with their bodies on how to best perform a movement.

  • Initially provide visual demonstrations. Some children may also benefit from hands on assistance during the first attempt.

  • Provide sensory input as this helps with regulation and body/spatial awareness. The type of input needed for regulation will vary from child to child.

DISCLAIMER: The content in this blog should not be used in place of medical advice/treatment and is solely for informational purposes. All activities/exercises posted in this blog should be performed with adult supervision, caution, and at your own risk. Big Leaps, LLC is not responsible for any injury while performing an activity/exercise that has been posted on this blog. If you have any information on the content of our blog, feel free to contact us at


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