How to improve Motor Planning Skills

In our previous blog we chatted about the rise in Motor Planning (Praxis) difficulties we are seeing in our classrooms and therapy practice. If you missed this blog, you can take a quick read here https://www.jumpleapfly.co.za/why-are-motor-planning-challenges-on-the-rise/.

To better understand how to tackle Motor Planning difficulties, we need to first look at its roots. In our Groovy Adventurers Book (https://www.jumpleapfly.co.za/groovy-adventurer-book/), we use a tree to explain development.

Sensory Motor Tree Diagram
Sensory Motor Tree Diagram

A tree needs firm roots in order for the trunk and branches to be strong and to bear fruit. Similarly, in development, foundational root skills need to mature before more complex trunk and branch skills can improve (which are the skills we see at home and in the classroom). Praxis or Motor Planning is a trunk skill, which is necessary for the fruit skills of task completion and work pace in the classroom. For example, a child who is sensitive to movement and feels insecure when their feet leave the floor, will not develop that inner GPS of where their body is in space and how it is moving. Without this awareness of the two sides of their body, they may not be able to use subtle postural adjustments to smoothly execute their motor plans.

Now that we know how Motor Planning develops – from Root to Fruit, we can start having fun at every level to help our children mature in this area. By starting at the root level, we can make sure they have firm foundations to build on as the demands of tasks become more complex. Let’s take a look at some ideas for activities you can do at each level:

Root Activities:
– 3 blind mice – work with your child to create an obstacle course. Try let him come up with his own ideas by asking him leading and prompting questions, e.g. “what can we do with this chair?” or “how can this table be part of this obstacle course?” Use your chairs, tables, cushions, laundry baskets etc. to create obstacles your little one can crawl under, through, over and crash onto. Let them pack out the obstacle course as independently as possible. Have them test the obstacle course out. Now use a blindfold and see if the blind mouse can find his way through the maze without his eyes helping him! He will have to rely on his sense of touch and body senses to feel his way through the obstacle course!

Trunk Activities:
Ribbon peg race – tie a length of ribbon to the top of a chair. Ask your child to sit on the floor about 30cm away from the chair and holding the other end of the ribbon. Start with 10 to 15 pegs and have a race to see how quickly he can peg the pegs onto the ribbon, by alternating attaching each peg to the opposite side of the ribbon (like zip teeth). He will need to remain seated and use both hands in order to complete the task. If the ribbon is not taut he will not be able to attach the pegs quickly. This activity requires bilateral integration (the coordinated use of two sides of the body). You can race against your child or see if he can beat his time on the next round using a stop watch.

Branch Activities:
Getting unstuck – take a trip to to the local park where there is a jungle gym. Have a long ribbon, rope or string handy. Tie one end of the string to the jungle gym and then wrap and wind it around different parts of the jungle gym – you can make it very easy with just a few twists and turns or make it more tricky with loads of tangles! Now tie the other end to your child’s waist and see if he can untangle himself! You can bring pretend play or imaginary play into it by pretending he has been captured and is freeing himself!

Fruit Activities:
Quack-Quacks – what do you call these fun cutting, folding and playing crafts? We call them Quack-Quacks and most children love making and playing with them and we love the folding, bilateral hand skills and planning needed for this task. We love these variations from the lovely ladies at the Spruce Crafts – thanks for the inspiration ladies! (https://www.thesprucecrafts.com/make-these-creative-cootie-catchers-4149965 ) More recently in our OT sessions we have enjoyed a Harry Potter Quack-Quack to figure out which house the children would be in if they attended Hogwarts! Thanks to Getawaytoday for the free printable click here to get yours: https://www.getawaytoday.com/travel-blog/harry-potter-origami-sorting-hat-free-printable

Quack quack
Free printable quack quack
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