12 Jul Motor Planning
Motor planning is a skill that helps us learn and remember how to move. It begins in the early years as babies and young children begin to move on from their primitive reflexes, and start to make decisions about how they move. Actions are attempted over and over and motor skills become refined. As the action is practised, the pattern of movement is remembered and seems to happen with little effort next time. Motor planning allows children to think about what they want to do and then be able to carry out the necessary actions to make it happen.
Motor planning develops over time. Babies begin with gross motor skills and these in the beginning require considerable effort and practice. Skills like rolling over, crawling and sitting up require strength, coordination and body awareness, and these are all gained via experimentation and trial and error. Once these skills are learned and remembered, children begin to move on to more complex movements. As children learn to walk, run and climb these patterns of movement are remembered and begin to require less conscious effort. Toddlers begin to be able to think about what they want to do and carry out simple motor planning, but their ability to think and make decisions while moving at the same time may not yet be possible. As they grow and practice their skills through play, they slowly begin to be able to perform multiple actions at the same time. They also develop the ability to follow instructions which involves listening, visualising what is being asked, and remembering it as they perform their task. Without motor planning this would not be possible.
Fine motor skills take more time to refine. Body awareness and the ability to move fingers separately instead of all together is required for things like drawing, writing and using scissors. With practice, a child progresses from using their whole fist to hold something to being able to grasp using only a finger and thumb. This increasing dexterity allows children to learn skills like tying their shoelaces, buttoning their shirt and brushing their teeth. Even the most routine activity becomes quite amazing when you think of how many movements are required and the lightening speed at which the brain remembers how to do it!
There are many ways to encourage your child to develop their motor skills and motor planning. Parks are great places for children to explore their movements and learn new skills. Running, jumping and climbing all help to improve balance and coordination and a playground can be a fun environment for this to take place. Massaging your child’s skin and hair, and allowing them to play with toys and materials with different textures helps develop the sensation of feeling which also aids motor planning. Puzzles and Lego encourage fine motor skills, and activities like baking with your child helps them with fine motor skills as well as following instructions.
If you feel as though your child might need a little help in any of the areas mentioned above, our friendly children’s physios are here to help. Here at Western Paediatric Physiotherapy in Hoppers Crossing our paediatric physios can help to asses where your child is at and develop a plan tailored to their needs. For appointments or to chat to our friendly staff call (03) 8001 2042.