What is Motor Planning?

Motor planning is a process that encompasses the ability to come up with an idea, plan how to complete that idea and then finally, execute that idea. mother helping daughter brush teethChildren with sensory processing disorder often have difficulty motor planning for various gross motor and fine motor tasks, as motor planning is a complex procedure that relies on the efficient integration of sensory information.

A child with decreased motor planning may be observed to have difficulty with self-care tasks, such as dressing and grooming, may have difficulty identifying one activity to do when presented with many options, such as when first arriving at the playground, or may have difficulty producing coordinated movements to play games with peers. Until your child completes a novel activity enough times for it to become a skill, he/she may need assistance to engage in a task.

Below are strategies to help your child develop motor planning abilities:

  1. Break down the task into smaller parts.
  2. Provide a variety of cues to help complete the task, including tactile, verbal and movement.
  3. Explore a variety of ways to play with the same toy or game. For example, a balloon can be used for catch, volleyball, baseball, or soccer. Have your child identify other items that would be needed to play these different sports with the balloon (i.e. bat, bases, net, etc).
  4. Assist your child with hand-over-hand support during the first few attempts to complete the task.
  5. Provide your child with the language to promote success, such as “I’m going to try my hardest” or “I can do this!” rather than “I can’t”. Help to show your child that he/she can do the things they want to do!

Source: Ayres, A. J. (2005). Sensory integration and the child: Understanding hidden sensory challenges (25th ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Western Psychological Services

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