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motor planning Motor planning is using the brain to direct the body to be able to sequence and perform goal-directed motor tasks.  Learning to ride a bike, tie shoelaces, and learning karate or dance moves are all examples of learning new motor tasks.

Most children can learn these tasks with relatively few repetitions.  Children with various isms often require an excessive amount of practice to be able to learn these tasks.  This is because the ability to motor plan depends on adequate functioning of the sensory systems including the vestibular, tactile, and proprioceptive senses.

Without proper functioning of these systems, children have a hard time knowing where their bodies are in relation to other objects in the environment.  When they do finally learn how to perform these tasks, the movements are often uncoordinated and awkward.

The Effect of Poor Motor Planning

Difficulty with the ability to motor plan affects the child’s ability to learn new motor tasks.  Additionally, this difficulty impairs his ability to sequence and plan motor actions.  This can impact many areas of functioning including:

  • organization of materials
  • organization of space and time
  • and even organization of thought

When I worked in schools, I could usually identify the child with motor planning issues pretty quickly by the state of his desk.  Papers, pens, and books would be all jammed in together.  The desk would be cluttered and it was impossible for him to find anything or get anything done.

If not addressed, as the child with motor planning issues gets older, home organization and even sequencing daily activities can be a real challenge, sometimes overwhelming.

How to Improve Motor Planning

To improve the ability to motor plan, I often recommend that a child participate in yoga, gymnastics, karate, or swimming because these activities use all of the senses simultaneously (vestibular, tactile, and proprioceptive input) and help to process the information more efficiently.

Enhance Motor Planning with Art

Bowl to Enhance Motor Planning

Consider Backward Chaining

Keep in mind that children with motor planning issues may require one on one attention to be able to learn these activities and they will probably need a lot of patience.  They may seem to ignore directions given to them, but they are most likely not doing the requested activity because it is really, really hard for them.  They have difficulty getting the message from their brains to their bodies to perform the requested activity.

However, through participating in the above suggested activities, the child will learn how to motor plan new tasks more efficiently, which can have a huge impact on his ability to not only learn new motor activities, but can improve his ability to organize, complete academic activities, and even socialize with other children.

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Andrea is an occupational therapist who earned her Master’s Degree in Health Sciences from the Medical College of Georgia in 2006. Her areas of expertise include autism and sensory processing disorder (SPD). She currently owns a pediatric practice in the North County San Diego area. For helpful techniques and tips, follow Andrea on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Be sure to visit Andrea on the web at