What is Motor Planning?

A year never goes by when I have to explain to a teacher what motor planning is what they can do in class to support students. I hope this information helps you find something you can use in your classroom.

Motor planning is the ability to conceive, plan, and carry out a skilled, non-habitual motor act in the correct sequence from beginning to end. Incoming sensory stimuli must be correctly integrated in order to form the basis for appropriate, coordinated motor responses. The ability to motor plan is a learned ability which is generalized to all unfamiliar tasks so a child does not need to consciously figure out each new task he or she faces. The child with motor planning difficulties may be slow in carrying out verbal instructions and often appears clumsy in new tasks.

Motor planning difficulties are caused by problems processing sensory information and poor neural connections in the brain. In order to have efficient motor planning, an individual must be able to organize sensory input from his body, have adequate body perception and be able to move around his environment. Difficulty with sensory processing can lead to poor motor planning for fine, gross, and oral motor tasks (such as handwriting, jumping, and forming words, respectively).

A sensory integrative approach is often used when treating a child with motor planning difficulties. Children rely on adequately interpreting sensory information from the tactile, proprioceptive, vestibular, visual, and auditory systems, in order to develop body awareness. Children with motor planning difficulties often have a poor body scheme. By providing your child with sensory information to help organize the information he receive form his environment, he can develop a better body scheme and his motor planning can improve as a result.

  • Before doing a task encourage the child to:
    • Visualize the task;
    • Verbalize before doing the task or repeat instruction;
    • Verbalize end result;
    • Assess whether plan worked- if not work out why not for next time.  
  • Help the child identify steps needed to begin and accomplish the task.  Have the child repeat directions and, if possible, write down the steps.  
  • Timing and sequencing are important to introduce into activities.  Sequencing may include getting from one position to another or remembering which movement comes after which. 
  • Giving a short assignment so that the child can feel instant success in completing a task. 
  • Giving one direction at a time.  After one action is successfully completed, add another direction. 
  • Helping the child physically move through the action.
  • Minimizing visual distractions.  Check for clutter in classroom environment. 
  • Reviewing how to play a game before actually playing it.  Demonstrate and verbalize actions.
  • Review what has been taught on a regular basis. 
Ideas to assist organizational skills:
  • Ensure a clutter free environment.
  • Have instructions written down in simple sentences.
  • Ask child to repeat instructions- gradually increasing the number and complexity of instructions.
  • Discuss with your child their time plan for the day, e.g.: ‘What will you do this morning?’ ‘What will you do after lunch?’  A daily planner on the wall at home will prompt items required for the day. 
  • Gradually withdraw the amount of help you are giving your child and encourage them to develop their own strategies for planning and organizing e.g. making a list, putting out reminders.  
Motor Planning Activities:
  • General tactile (touch) and vestibular (movement) stimulation are important for motor planning.   Include regular visits to play parks with rides on swings and slides. 
  • Brain Breaks
  • Activities involving sequences of movement are particularly useful in developing motor planning. Start with simple sequences, gradually make them more complex.  Where possible involve the child in making up patterns.  


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Welcome to my all thing special education blog. I empower busy elementary special education teachers to use best practice strategies to achieve a data and evidence driven classroom community by sharing easy to use, engaging, unique approaches to small group reading and math. Thanks for Hopping By.

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