Motor planning consists of the ability to think of an idea (ideation), plan out what to do (sequencing), carry out the motor task to complete the idea (execution) and make adaptations when needed based on feedback from the activity itself or the input of others. A child who has difficulties in motor planning, formally known as Dyspraxia, may display trouble in one or more of these areas. Dyspraxia is one word that encompasses a wide array of symptoms defining challenges in daily life encompassing physical, emotional and organizational capacities. It is a diagnosis that can present itself differently and bring challenges in different areas for each child and family that it impacts.
Some children present with more challenges in coordination and participation in physical activities – playing sports requiring hand-eye coordination, riding a bike, pumping a swing, writing letters, and putting clothes on. These children seem generally clumsy and awkward. Some children present with challenges in organization and attention – difficulty following directions, losing and misplacing things, forgetting in what order to complete multiple step tasks, getting distracted during daily routines. Yet other children present with challenges in coming up with ideas, adapting to changes in plans, transitioning to new activities, and thinking flexibly. These kids can be slow to initiate activities and hesitant to join others in play.
Most children with dyspraxia present with some combination of the above challenges, as well as challenges in emotional regulation. They feel frustrated that they are not successful with tasks and often seen as not paying attention. They have a low self esteem and are not persistent, giving up on activities and not trying new activities. They feel anxious and worried, are hesitant and cautious. Social emotional development is very often impacted.
In order to improve motor planning capabilities, challenge your child to think of new ideas, to make a plan of what they want to do, and practice completing their plans. When doing this try to engage as many of the senses as possible because the more the child experiences sensations, the more practice they will get interpreting and understanding it. In addition, this sensory stimulation will help them to develop a better body scheme, which is vital in understanding and planning how to move our body. Below are some ideas of games that can be played at home.
Floor is lava!
- Pretend the floor is lava and have your child try to figure out how to cross from one area in your home to another (for example from one couch to another).
- Use items from around the room to build a way across, such as pillows and chairs. Once they master doing it this way, have them think of things from other rooms they can use.
- You can also play this at the park and have the child use the playground equipment.
Take turns with your child to create a fun move or dance that the other person has to copy. You can move to their favorite music to make it more fun and motivating!
Write down various things on pieces of paper (such as animals or characters they may know). Take turns picking a piece of paper and acting out what is written for the other person to guess.
Switch it up!
Play a game where you each take turns thinking of ways to use different items. For example, take a fork and see how many ways you can use it (eating, brushing hair, etc.). Be creative with it and act out each different idea for added humor!
Play a pirate treasure game
Pretend you are a pirate either hiding or finding treasure. Encourage using new spots each time you play.
- Have your child hide treasure around the room, then draw you a treasure map of where to find it. If they are unable to write/draw yet, have them give you clues to find the items. The clues can be where to find the items (i.e. under something blue) or how to move your body to get there (i.e. take five steps forward then bend down).
- Have your child be a pirate finding treasure to capture. You hide treasure around the room and draw a map of where the items are. Have your child read the map to find where the treasure is. For an added bonus, hide the treasure in areas that your child will have to climb or crawl to.
your child create a ninja warrior course either outside or around the house.
Start with a shorter course (3 parts or components). As they get better at
creating them challenge them to make them longer and more complex.
- It may be helpful to have them draw or write out their idea first so they have a solidified idea of what the steps are and in what order.
- You can also have your child try to create ninja moves. Have them name each move (the sillier the better) for added fun!
- Lastly, have your child try to use the ninja moves they created within their ninja course! See how many different ways they can do it!
Practicing throwing at a target is a great way for kids to learn how to coordinate their eyes with the movement of their body. It helps to enhance the pacing, timing and rhythm of actions. Start with them standing still and close to the target. As they get better at this skill they can move further away and even start to throw while their body is moving (such as on a swing or while they are walking). Below are some gameplay ideas for this:
Be Robin Hood or Cupid
Using a kids bow and arrow set pretend they are an archer.
- Pretend you are Robin Hood and shoot arrows to defeat the bad guys (stuffed animals).
- Pretend you are Cupid and shoot arrows at various stuffed animals to make them fall in love
Be a dragon
Throwing fireballs at the village. Have your child create a Lego village around the room then use a soft ball as the fireball, throwing it at one building at a time to destroy the city.
Be a cowboy
Place animals around the room and use plastic rings to throw around (lasso) the animals that escaped from home.