Inside: Learn the differences between Locomotion Skills and Motor Planning, and how a child can improve both. Includes examples of locomotion skills and motor planning skills.

I know I’ve said it a zillion times before, but K is my first child. So, I didn’t have any parenting experience prior to him. Hindsight is always 20/20, but wow, sometimes reality and “duh!” just really sucker punches me.

I remember one incident specifically. I posted a picture on Facebook, of K wearing some cute sunglasses. A friend, who has a child his same age, commented with “My baby would never in a million years wear sunglasses!”

A woman demonstrating motor planning skills with a baby in a swimming pool.
Well, his baby eyes needed protection anyway!

I didn’t think much of it at the time. I know now, he didn’t have the motor planning to take the sunglasses off. He didn’t cry or otherwise protest at wearing them, but he was essentially forced to wear them because he was unable to remove them.

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I just didn’t know it at the time. Looking back, a lot of the “why doesn’t he” or “why can’t he…” questions can be answered with “super delayed motor planning skills.”

But, he also lacks locomotion skills too. Or, is delayed in that area. And one requires the other.

This affects many kids with hypotonia, which he has.

Locomotion skills, also known as movement skills or motor skills, refer to the ability to move the body from one place to another. These skills are fundamental for physical activity, sports, and daily life tasks.

Locomotion skills involve various types of movements, such as walking, running, jumping, hopping, skipping, crawling, and more.

Developing these skills is crucial for overall physical development, coordination, and body awareness.

A young boy demonstrating locomotion skills in a park.

Difference Between Locomotion and Motor Planning

Locomotion skills and motor planning are related concepts within the realm of motor development, but they refer to different aspects of movement and coordination.

  1. Locomotion Skills: As mentioned earlier, locomotion skills pertain to the ability to move the body from one place to another. These skills involve various forms of movement such as walking, running, jumping, hopping, and crawling. Locomotion skills are fundamental for basic mobility and navigating the environment. They are a subset of motor skills and are part of a broader range of movement abilities that individuals develop over time.
  2. Motor Planning: Motor planning, also known as motor praxis, refers to the cognitive process of planning and organizing the sequence of movements required to perform a specific action or task. It involves the ability to conceptualize, plan, and execute a motor activity in a coordinated manner. Motor planning encompasses not only locomotion skills but also other complex movements, such as fine motor skills (like grasping objects, handwriting, and using utensils) and more intricate actions that involve multiple steps.

In essence, locomotion skills are specific types of motor skills that involve basic movements for getting around, while motor planning is a broader cognitive process that involves the coordination and sequencing of movements for a wide range of actions, including both locomotion and fine motor tasks.

Motor planning skills are essential for activities that require precision, coordination, and adaptability, whereas locomotion skills are more focused on basic forms of movement and mobility.

Two children demonstrating motor planning skills while playing with a red balloon in a park.

Types of Locomotion Skills

Locomotion skills can be categorized into different types:

  1. Fundamental Locomotor Skills: These are basic movement patterns that form the foundation for more complex movements. They include actions like walking, running, jumping, hopping, galloping, skipping, and sliding.
  2. Stability Skills: These skills involve maintaining balance and control while moving. They are essential for activities like standing on one foot, maintaining equilibrium, and transitioning between different positions.
  3. Manipulative Locomotor Skills: These skills combine movement with object manipulation. They include actions like dribbling a basketball while running, kicking a soccer ball, or catching a ball while moving.
  4. Non-locomotor Skills: While not strictly movement from one place to another, non-locomotor skills involve body movements without significant changes in location. Examples include bending, twisting, turning, stretching, and swaying.

Developing locomotion skills is important for children’s physical, cognitive, and social development. Through practice and play, children learn to control their bodies, understand spatial relationships, and interact with their environment. These skills also serve as a foundation for more advanced physical activities and sports later in life.

In educational and recreational settings, educators and coaches often focus on teaching and refining locomotion skills to promote physical literacy, healthy lifestyles, and overall well-being.

A young boy exhibiting locomotion skills while running through a sprinkler.

Examples of Locomotion Skills

These locomotion skills are foundational for basic movement and physical activity.

  1. Walking: Moving forward while alternating steps, maintaining a continuous pace.
  2. Running: Faster movement than walking, with both feet off the ground during each stride.
  3. Jumping: Propelling the body off the ground with both feet and landing on two feet or one foot.
  4. Hopping: Taking off and landing on the same foot, often in a rhythmic pattern.
  5. Skipping: A combination of steps and hops, involving a skipping leg and a supporting leg.
  6. Galloping: A step-slide pattern, with one foot leading and the other following, used often in dance.
  7. Sliding: Sideways movement, crossing one foot over the other in a gliding motion.
  8. Crawling: Moving on hands and knees or hands and feet, commonly used by infants before walking.
  9. Rolling: Rotating the body around a horizontal axis, such as a forward roll or somersault.
  10. Leaping: A longer jump with a forward motion, using one leg to push off and landing on the other.

As individuals develop and refine these skills, they gain greater control over their body’s movements and are better equipped to engage in various forms of physical play, sports, and daily activities.

A little girl is demonstrating her locomotion skills by running on the sidewalk.

How to Improve Locomotion Skills

K’s motor planning and locomotion skills have both improved significantly over time, but he is still very delayed.

And, when seizures increased, we saw a regression in skills. So, we’re working toward improving both.

Improving locomotion skills in children involves a combination of practice, play, and supportive environments.

Here are some strategies to help children develop and enhance their locomotion skills:

  1. Provide Opportunities for Active Play: Encourage children to engage in active play that involves different types of movement. Activities like tag, hide-and-seek, and obstacle courses can help children practice various locomotion skills in a fun and engaging way.
  2. Outdoor Play: Spending time outdoors allows children to explore different surfaces and terrains, which can challenge and enhance their balance and coordination. Natural settings also offer opportunities for running, jumping, climbing, and other forms of movement.
  3. Structured Activities: Enroll children in organized physical activities such as dance classes, gymnastics, martial arts, or team sports. These activities often incorporate drills and exercises designed to improve specific locomotion skills.
  4. Provide Safe Spaces: Ensure that the environment is safe for children to move freely and explore. Clear obstacles and hazards that might impede their movement or cause accidents.
  5. Model and Demonstrate: Show children how to perform different locomotion skills correctly. Demonstrations help them understand the movements and encourage them to imitate and practice.
  6. Encourage Imaginative Play: Incorporate imaginative play scenarios that require different types of movement. Pretend play, acting out stories, and role-playing can involve crawling, walking, running, and more.
  7. Balance Activities: Include activities that challenge balance and stability, such as walking on a line, balancing on one foot, or moving on uneven surfaces like pillows or cushions.
  8. Games and Challenges: Create games or challenges that involve specific locomotion skills. For example, set up an obstacle course with cones, hoops, and hurdles to encourage running, jumping, and crawling.
  9. Playground Visits: Frequent visits to playgrounds with varied equipment can help children practice climbing, swinging, sliding, and other locomotion skills.
  10. Physical Education: Participate in or encourage physical education classes at school. These classes often include structured activities and exercises aimed at improving motor skills and coordination.
  11. Support and Encouragement: Offer positive reinforcement and praise when children attempt or improve their locomotion skills. A supportive and encouraging attitude can boost their confidence and motivation to keep practicing.
  12. Consistent Practice: Like any skill, consistency is key. Regular practice over time will lead to improvement and mastery of locomotion skills.

Remember that each child develops at their own pace, so be patient and allow them to progress gradually. The goal is to create a positive and enjoyable experience that fosters a lifelong love for physical activity and movement.

K doesn’t want to go to a playground, and that’s fine because he’s 17. Not knocking those who wish to visit one, but my child doesn’t.

A few years ago we got a nice trampoline and now we have an above-ground pool. We work on his skills there.

A man demonstrates locomotion skills in a swimming pool while wearing a life jacket.
He requires a special life jacket due to the frequent seizures.

But, we’re also working on his motor planning too.

Examples of Motor Planning Skills

Here are 10 examples of motor planning skills:

  1. Dressing Skills: Sequencing the steps to put on clothes, including buttoning, zipping, and tying shoelaces.
  2. Eating Skills: Coordinating the use of utensils to pick up food, bring it to the mouth, and chew.
  3. Constructive Play: Planning and building structures with blocks, Legos, or other construction toys.
  4. Puzzle Solving: Assembling jigsaw puzzles by identifying and fitting together individual pieces.
  5. Drawing and Writing: Using fine motor skills to hold a writing utensil and create letters, shapes, and images.
  6. Art and Crafts: Planning and executing artistic projects that involve cutting, gluing, and arranging materials.
  7. Playing Musical Instruments: Coordinating hand movements and finger positions to play notes or chords on instruments.
  8. Keyboard Typing: Organizing finger movements to type on a keyboard efficiently.
  9. Cooking and Baking: Following a recipe and organizing the steps to prepare a meal or bake goods.
  10. Sports and Physical Activities: Sequencing movements and actions required in sports, dance routines, or other physical activities.

Motor planning skills involve the ability to mentally plan, organize, and execute a sequence of movements to achieve a specific goal. These skills are crucial for everyday tasks and activities that require precision, coordination, and timing.

Developing strong motor planning skills contributes to overall motor coordination, independence, and the ability to adapt to new and unfamiliar tasks.

How to Improve Motor Planning

Improving motor planning skills involves practicing activities that challenge the ability to plan, organize, and execute sequences of movements. Here are some strategies that can help enhance motor planning abilities:

  1. Engage in Activities Requiring Sequencing: Participate in activities that involve step-by-step sequences, such as cooking, following instructions for a craft project, or assembling furniture.
  2. Puzzles and Games: Solve puzzles, play strategy board games, or engage in activities that require planning and foresight, like chess or Rubik’s Cube.
  3. Construction Toys: Play with building blocks, Legos, or other construction toys that require planning and organizing to create structures.
  4. Dance and Movement: Learn dance routines or choreography that involve coordinating a series of movements in a specific order.
  5. Music Practice: Play a musical instrument that demands coordinated finger movements and timing, like piano, guitar, or drums.
  6. Fine Motor Activities: Engage in tasks that require precise hand movements, such as intricate drawing, origami, or threading beads.
  7. Outdoor Challenges: Participate in outdoor activities like orienteering, geocaching, or treasure hunts that involve navigating and following directions.
  8. Obstacle Courses: Create or engage in obstacle courses that require planning and executing various movements in a coordinated manner.
  9. Digital Games: Play video games or mobile apps that involve strategic thinking and quick decision-making.
  10. Physical Education Classes: Join fitness or sports classes that focus on learning and practicing complex movements and routines.
  11. Mindfulness Activities: Engage in mindfulness exercises that require focused attention and controlled movements, such as yoga or tai chi.
  12. Cooking and Baking: Follow recipes and cook or bake meals that involve multiple steps and timing.
  13. Visual and Spatial Activities: Engage in tasks that require spatial awareness and visualization, such as map reading, building 3D models, or working on spatial puzzles.
  14. Social Role-Playing: Participate in role-playing scenarios that involve planning and executing actions to achieve specific outcomes.
  15. Therapeutic Interventions: Occupational therapists can provide targeted exercises and activities to improve motor planning skills.

Consistent practice and exposure to a variety of activities that challenge motor planning can help improve these skills over time.

Remember that progress may vary, and it’s important to provide a supportive and patient environment for development.

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