Coordination and Motor Planning

Do you take longer than others to pick up a new skill? When you’re learning dance moves or a sports manoeuvre, do you find yourself repeating instructions out loud? Have you ever been called ‘unco'?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may have motor planning difficulties.

Simply put, motor planning involves thinking of a task, planning how to do the task, then doing the task in a coordinated way.

It helps us have coordinated and organised body movements and is therefore essential for learning new tasks. Motor planning also requires a good sense of touch, proprioception (body awareness) and movement.

How do I know if my child is having difficulty with their coordination and motor planning?

Your child may have coordination or motor planning difficulties if they:

  • Find learning new tasks challenging and tend to need to practice the task over and over in order to learn it
  • Adopt compensatory ways to help learn new activities (e.g. saying what they’re doing out loud, relying a lot on seeing demos of a new task)
  • Make excuses not to try new things (usually because they’re aware of their difficulties)
  • Move awkwardly and clumsily
  • Demonstrate hesitation and avoidance
  • Appear uncoordinated or 'disorganised' with their actions
  • 'Get in a muddle' (e.g. seem confused and unsure how to start a task)
  • Have trouble 'multitasking' or doing two things at the same time
  • Find dressing themselves, dancing, or learning to ride a bike, swim or play a new sport hard

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Ways you can help your child with their coordination and motor planning

If you want to further develop little miss or mister's motor planning skills, have a go at the following activities:

  • Ball games and sequences (e.g. bounce, catch, bounce, bounce, catch, bounce, clap, catch)
  • Games that involve actions such as ‘Simon Says’
  • Singing songs with actions such as 'Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes' and the 'Hokey Pokey'
  • Copying block designs
  • Walking along a straight line, a zig zag and in a circle
  • Walking and running while keeping a balloon up in the air
  • Doing obstacle courses (e.g. climbing through, under, over, around, forwards, backwards)
  • Riding a bike or a tricycle


Some additional tips for improving your child’s coordination and motor planning

Motor planning difficulties can be frustrating for both the parents and junior so trying to be patient and calm – for example counting to 10 in your mind or breathing deeply – will help.

We’ve all been there though so don’t put too much pressure on yourself, Mum and Dad!

Here are some extra tips for helping your youngster to develop their coordination and motor planning skills:

  • Encourage little miss or mister to practice, practice, practice through repetition, repetition, repetition
  • Use verbal, visual and even 'hand on hand' physical cues when you’re teaching them something new. For example, demonstrate the actions while telling them what you’re doing. Then place your hands on theirs while you go through the actions so they can feel how to perform the task
  • Adopt a ‘multisensory’ approach to new activities that uses different textures and mediums. For example, get your child to practice forming letters using the right movements (i.e. top to bottom, anti-clockwise, left to right) in playdough, plasticine, finger paint, a sand tray, shaving cream, oatmeal
  • Break spoken instructions down into smaller parts and repeat them. You can also encourage the task to be attempted 'bit by bit' or 'step by step'
  • Invite junior to do the last step of the task first so they feel a sense of accomplishment (e.g. when learning how to tie shoelaces, talk them through what you’re doing for the first few steps and then ask them to complete the final step of pulling the bows – this will help them feel ‘success’ and potentially encourage them to persist with the task)
  • When you can see your little one is starting to 'get' a task, slowly reduce the amount of cues you’re giving them
  • Lots of positive reinforcement and encouragement such as ‘well done’ and ‘good trying’ work a treat

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Combined Videos

Combining several foundation skills, our PlayBiz Play-a-Long videos run for 10 minutes or so. We’ve carefully ordered the activities so they enable your youngster to have an optimal learning experience and develop the skills they’ll need for school by joining in the ‘teachable moments’. Picture a fun and educational TV program like PlaySchool crossed with an occupational therapy session that’s chock full of strategies. Ready, steady, learn! Please note: The Play-a-Long videos don’t need to be viewed in any particular order.