What is motor planning and why is it important?

Have you ever watched a child try to do something for the first time? Eyes tight in concentration, perhaps their tongue is poking out as they focus. Their whole attention is absorbed.

They are likely engaged in the task of motor planning.

You’ve maybe heard of gross motor skills (whole body movement) and fine motor skills (small, intricate movement and coordination). 

But did you know both skills are tied to motor planning (or praxis)? This is the ability to conceive, plan and execute an unfamiliar movement. We use motor planning in everyday activities, from the smallest tasks, such as putting on socks and brushing teeth, to the bigger movements, such as climbing into a car, driving or going for a bush walk. Motor planning helps us to move our body the way we want. 

People who struggle with motor planning can often seem clumsy, take time to complete a task or perhaps lack the confidence to try new things due to past ‘failed’ experiences. 

“Motor planning is, in some ways, the highest and most complex form of functioning in children… The brain tells the muscles what to do, but the sensations from the body enable the brain to do the telling.” 
~ Anna Jean Ayres (Sensory Integration and the Child, 2005)


Why is motor planning important?

Motor planning is a vital part of learning a new skill and it relies on a few things to develop:
- Sensory feedback from the body moving through the environment
- Memory 
- Muscle strength, postural control and balancing skills
- Coordination
- Language and cognitive skills

Providing a rich environment full of opportunities to practice motor planning is one of the best ways to help a developing child. This could mean going to parks regularly or attending KinderGym and gymnastics for older kids!

Engaging in motor planning helps kids acquire skills, leading to greater confidence as they interact with the world.

Keep an eye out for the next blog on Motor Planning Activities for Children.