Activities to Improve Motor Planning in Kids

Developing motor planning skills helps students with handwriting and other muscle movements.

Motor planning is a child’s ability to organize, plan and execute new or unpracticed fine motor skills, such as drawing or riding a bike. Motor planning includes developing hand-eye coordination and gross motor skills, movements of the large muscles of the body, such as keeping balance when shifting positions. For toddlers learning how to walk, handicapped children, and kids affected with dyspraxia -- a difficulty in motor planning -- specialized motor-skill building activities help the child control his arms and legs so he can begin grasping, touching and experiencing the world on his own.

1 Walking the Rope

For children learning to walk, including injured or disabled children, equilibrium stimulating activities -- or balancing -- helps develop body awareness and laterality, an awareness of the left and right sides of the body. Have your child or students walk along a piece of rope on a grassy lawn or other soft surface. Ask the child to put out her arms like an airplane to keep her balance steady. Supervise the children as they try to walk along the line. Make the course more challenging if the child masters it by making the rope more curved.

2 Riding a Bike

Encourage your child to ride a bike. If you are developing motor planning skills in a toddler, use a pedal bike and always stay with your child as he learns that pushing the pedals powers his motion. When your child develops the motor planning skills to ride the push or pedal bike on his own -- under your supervision -- you can move him to a bike with training wheels. Bike riding helps kids develop balance, hand-eye coordination and gross motor skills. For handicapped children, a tailored bike or trike (tricycle) that rides low to the ground improves safety and control.

3 Ball Walking

This exercise develops the motor skills needed for handwriting and other fine motor skills by strengthening the arm and shoulder muscles. For this activity, you need an adult gym ball, about 3 feet around, and a high, smooth wall. Ask the child, or children if you are teaching a class, to squat down, so that they are facing the wall. Each child can take a turn. Ask the child to place her hands on the large plastic bouncy ball. Ask her to use both hands to push the ball slowly up the wall until the middle of the ball reaches just above her shoulder level. Then the child can "walk" the ball sideways along the wall, at the same height. This strengthens another set of arm muscles. Encourage the child to go slowly -- the slower the movement, the better it is for developing fine motor skills, especially those for handwriting.

4 Household Activities

For older children, 5 years old and up, helping with household chores develops motor planning skills. Helping their mom, dad or sibling set the table, for example, develops hand-eye coordination, balance and an awareness of how the way the body moves affects the objects they carry. Keep close supervision on children when doing this activity. Helping with the laundry also builds motor planning skills, such as folding shirts and matching socks. You can make a game out of it by seeing who can find the missing polka-dot sock the fastest or who can fold a shirt into the neatest rectangle. Of course, the child should not feel any pressure; just encouragement.

Noelle Carver has been a freelance writer since 2009, with work published in "SSYK" and "The Wolf," two U.K. literary journals. Carver holds a Bachelor of Arts in literature from American University and a Master of Fine Arts in writing from The New School. She lives in New York City.