Cleveland occupational therapists

What is Motor Planning? Cleveland Occupational Therapists Explain

Most people are familiar with the terms fine motor skills and gross motor skills. Fewer understand what motor planning is – or more importantly, why it matters. As our Cleveland occupational therapists can explain, motor planning is a skill that helps us remember and perform the steps that make movement possible.

Motor planning is critical to being able to carry out movements. It’s what we use to know, recall and perform all the little steps that allow us to complete a particular movement or task.

It’s necessary for pretty much all the physical activities in which we engage – from speaking to writing to throwing a ball. Our Cleveland occupational therapists know that a child with motor planning challenges will take longer to learn how to complete physical tasks as well as carry them out. Motor planning is a vital skill that we often target in occupational therapy.

Motor Planning: How it Works

Motor planning is what allows us to move our bodies the way we want.

Gross motor skills are what we use to move the bigger muscle groups. These are the muscles we use to do things like walk, jump, run and balance.
Fine motor skills, on the other hand, are the master of smaller muscle groups that control our feet, wrists and hands. They are essential to doing things like tying our shoes, buttoning our pants or holding a pencil.
But before we can do any of that, we have to think about how we’re going to move our body. Many of us do this without much thought at all, so we forget that we were once taught, that our brain still has to “tell” our bodies how to complete the task. We once had to think about the sequence of each step. We had to do it slowly – and it was hard. Even when we paid close attention, sometimes we made mistakes. Eventually with practice, we were able to do it on our own – and easily.

When Your Child Has Trouble With Motor Planning

Children who struggle with motor planning are not able to easily learn from the feedback they’re getting that helps them to master a movement. That’s why they might seem clumsy or as if they are only just doing it for the first time. They may be taking “forever” to carry out a basic action. This can affect them cognitively, socially and academically.

Trouble with motor planning is fairly common with kids who have dyspraxia, also known as developmental coordination disorder (DCD).

Occupational therapy can help kids with these conditions and general motor planning difficulties.

Cleveland Occupational Therapists Help With Motor Planning

Professional help is often needed to address motor planning issues. With occupational therapy, children can learn the basic steps and order of various movement tasks, with the goal of making them easier, more automatic.

It requires time, patience, physical and visual demonstrations and a great deal of practice. We have extensive experience in addressing these challenges and helping kids achieve maximum movement and independence.

If you are concerned about your child’s motor planning abilities, our occupational therapy team can conduct an evaluation and craft an individualized plan of care – including exercises and activities you can work on at home for greater carryover and faster improvement.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides occupational therapy to children in Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights, Akron and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email

Additional Resources:

Motor Planning, Control, and Coordination, Dec. 13, 2019, Very Well Family

More Blog Entries:

Cleveland Occupational Therapy Trip Tips for Kids, June 16, 2020, Cleveland Occupational Therapists’ Blog