What is motor planning?

What is motor planning?  Motor planning is the ability to create an idea, plan an action and execute that action.   It is a complex process that requires cognitive thought, sensory input, and a motor action.

What is motor planning? Motor planning is the ability to create an idea, plan an action and execute that action. It is a complex process that requires cognitive thought, sensory input and a motor action.

Why is motor planning important?

We need to use motor planning for many activities of daily life. A clear example of motor planning is learning how to negotiate through an obstacle course. Other activities that require motor planning are everyday tasks such as tooth brushing, walking in a classroom around desks and chairs, using playground equipment or creating artwork.

How can you help children develop motor planning?

There are many ways to help children develop motor planning. The most important way is to PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. Children need repetition to learn and execute motor actions. Here are some additional suggestions to help children develop motor planning:

  • Break down the skill into smaller parts. If teaching how to jump rope first show them how to turn the rope without jumping. Practice just jumping over the rope without turning the rope. Then practice turning and jumping.
  • Modify the activity. You may to simplify the activity or modify the environment. For example, when teaching dressing, arrange the clothes in the proper order of how the child should put the clothes on.
  • Follow a routine. It can be easier for a child to motor plan new skills if they know what to expect.
  • Practice new skills with the same materials as often as possible i.e. practice putting on the same coat or use the same jump rope each time.
  • Provide verbal and visual cues when teaching a new skill.
  • Use simple one or two step motor commands when giving directions.
  • Keep it fun! Here are some suggested activities that challenge motor planning skills: obstacle courses, playing games that require several steps to complete an activity, hopscotch and hand clapping games.

6 additional activity ideas to practice motor planning skills

Ninja Clothes Pin Clips

Ninja Clothes Pin Clip Activity – find the matching Ninja, move your body like the Ninja and clip the Ninja to the circle. Download the Ninja Free Activity.

Motor Planning with Pool Noodles from www.YourTherapySource.com

Motor Planning with Pool Noodles – here is a super easy set up but challenging activity to encourage motor planning skills, coordination and body awareness. Cut up pool noodles lengthwise and lay them on the floor in different directions. Ask the child to jump from noodle to noodle keeping the pool noodle between the feet.  Watch a video of it in action.


Box Balance Game – Watch the video at YourTherapySource to see how to play the Box Balance game to encourage balance skills, motor planning, body awareness, eye foot coordination and right/left discrimination.

Simon Says Freebie

Here is a fun, new freebie from the latest download, Simon Says.  Print off these 9 cards to play a quick game of Simon Says.  Can the children copy the body poses exactly?  These are 9 samples cards from the HUGE collection of body position cards from the complete Simon Says download.


Try this rhythmic timing and motor planning activity with a small group.  Trickier than it looks!

Clap, Snap or Tap motor planning group game

This Move Like Me freebie includes 2 sample pages for children to practice motor planning, crossing midline, body awareness, timing, rhythm, coordination and physical activity.  Follow the movement patterns on the children pictured focusing on timing and rhythm of completing the actions.