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5 Activities for Improved Motor Planning

May 08th, 2020 | by Dana Thomsen, PT, DPT, PCS

Dana Thomsen, PT, DPT, PCS

May 08th, 2020

What is Motor Planning? 

Motor planning is a complex idea that has many different components. In short, motor planning is the body’s ability to remember the small steps that when combined, allow us to carry out a specific activity. Motor planning goals may include activities such as riding a bike or tying your shoes.  

Sometimes children have difficulty with processing the information needed to learn new motor actions.  These children may appear to be clumsy or need extra time to complete what may seem like a simple task.  So perhaps you may have already shown your child the steps it takes to brush their teeth, but after the 20th time they still seem to need reminding to put toothpaste on the toothbrush! No need to get frustrated, there are some motor planning activities and exercises you can work on with your child that will help to develop their ability to motor plan.

Our Favorite Motor Planning Activities

1. Yoga Cards 

Yoga is a great way for kids to have fun with moving their bodies in unique ways! I love Yoga Pretzels!  These cards allow for kids to work through different poses with information presented to cater to different learning styles.

  • Make it fun and pick 5 different cards from the stack to work through together as a family. Make it competitive and see who can hold which position the longest!   

At first when you start with this activity, it is okay to give your child feedback on how they are doing verbally, showing them visually with your body, and helping with your hands to get them into the right position.  Over time, you want to start to take one of those ways you are helping away to see if they are beginning to process how to motor plan these poses more on their own. 

  • Find our therapist’s favorite yoga poses for kids here!


2. Animal Walks    

Have races around the living room walking like a bear, crab, frog, snake, or giraffe.  Or you can go on a treasure hunt from your own living room but make it a rule where you must walk like a certain animal.  Or to challenge them, have them come up with a way to walk like a specific animal! 

  • Check out this quick video of a NAPA therapist showing examples of animal walks here!

3. Simon Says 

Getting back to your roots as a young one! You as the parent can start off by being Simon and holding different poses such as standing one foot in front of the other and one hand on top of your head.  The sillier the better!  Do not stress as much about your child following the rules of the game, but rather more on challenging their bodies to replicate what you are showing them. 


4. Ball Maze 

You will need a ball of any size and a rope or tape for this game.  The goal of the activity is for the child to move the ball along the rope from one side to the other.  First, they can start with their hands to roll the ball along the line.  Then make it more challenging by having them move it with their foot.  You can also increase the challenge even more by allowing them to only move it with their elbow or knee, or to make the pattern of the rope like a wave or a zig zag.  


5. Obstacle Course Stations 

With this idea, you do not have to always resort to climbing on furniture.  You can create a sequence of stations your child has to go through such as kicking a ball to knock down a block tower, followed by frog jumping towards 3 different targets, and then finally pushing a weighted laundry basket around 2 obstacles.  You can challenge them by changing up one part of the circuit each time such as making them jump sideways to the targets instead of forwards.  Another challenge could be having them come up with their own tasks they have to do at the stations! 

We hope you found these motor planning activities helpful!

Find Additional Resources and Activities in the NAPA Blog:

About the Author

Dana Thomsen has been a paediatric physical therapist for 8 years, with experience in working with a wide range of diagnosis.  Her favorite part of working in the paediatric field is being able to get paid to play with such adorable children! She enjoys spending her time cuddling with her lovable dog and reading a good book. 

About NAPA Centre

At NAPA Centre, we take an individualised approach to therapy because we understand that each child is unique with very specific needs. For this reason, no two therapeutic programs are alike. If your child needs our services, we will work closely with you to select the best therapies for them, creating a customised program specific to your child’s needs and your family’s goals. Let your child’s journey begin today by contacting us to learn more.

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