search Menu

Planning movement (motor planning)

Motor planning is our ability to have an idea of how we want to move, plan how we’re going to move and then actually move. This lets us respond to our changing environment and in everyday situations.

Another word for motor planning is Praxis. When there is a problem, this is called Dyspraxia or Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD).

If your child is struggling with planning movement, you’ll notice that they:

  • May use too little or too much force
  • Have poor timing and anticipation in their movements, such as when they’re trying to catch a ball
  • Are often tripping, falling or bumping into things
  • Are poor at construction activities, including writing and scissor skills
  • Have difficulties with carrying out every day, self-care tasks, such as dressing
  • Have difficulties learning new skills and need more practice than other children
  • Have difficulty copying movements from others eg learning dances and games

There are a number of techniques you can use to help your child improve their movement planning, including:

  • Helping your child identify the steps needed to begin and accomplish a task. Ask them to repeat the directions and if possible write them down
  • Asking your child to rehearse what they have learned on a regular basis; repetition is useful
  • Giving them one direction at a time, adding a new action after they’ve completed the last
  • Giving them a short piece of work so that they can feel instant success when completing the task
  • Asking them questions about what they’re going to do and how they’re going to do it
  • Encouraging them to describe what they’re doing while they’re carrying out an activity
  • Helping your child physically move through the action so that they can experience the correct movement, for example hand over hand
  • Starting with basic two step activities and building up to three, four and then five steps. Count the steps as you go, e.g. “first” and “last” or 1 – 2 –3
  • Encouraging them to check off steps as they complete them, e.g. placing a symbol card in a ‘done box’
  • Encouraging them to do art projects where they need to put together different parts to assemble something. This will help them to develop strategies for organising parts, and can build up their self-esteem. Make sure they receive lots of praise for their work
  • Describing and demonstrating how to play a game before actually playing it
  • Marking the physical boundaries of a game or task for example using rope or masking tape, e.g. a game circle or a start and finish line
  • Take a break between actions during a game to make sure you have their attention
Self-management strategies for older children:
  • Don’t be afraid to ask people to repeat instructions or ask for extra time if you need it.
  • Have a list of things to do such as items to put in your bag / PE kit, homework that needs to be done.
  • To help with self-organising, use alarm reminder, notes on your phone, post-it notes, wall planner or diary, colour coding school books.
  • To make dressing for PE easier and quicker, make sure that your kit/bag is easy to access, avoid fiddly fastenings, use Velcro shoes or Lock laces.
  • At home, dress in front of a mirror to give you a visual cue on how to put each item on correctly.
  • Be prepared! For example, pack your school bag/PE kit the night before, lay out your clothes/uniform in order.
  • Break your homework down into small, manageable chunks and tick off after each part is completed.
  • If you are worried about learning a new game or sport or using unfamiliar PE equipment, try to do some research in advance e.g. reading up, watching videos or asking an adult to go through the steps with you.

If you’ve tried all of these techniques and you’re still not seeing any improvement after four months, please do speak to your health visitor or GP.