Motor planning, motor control, and motor coordination are three related terms that help describe what’s happening in your child’s bodies and brains (and your own, too) to make movements happen. Everything from the tiniest wave of a finger to a much more complicated sequence of events requires planning, control, and coordination. They’re all inter-related, and they’re all important.
Gross motor skill development involves the large muscles in the arms, legs and torso. Gross motor activities are important to everyday physical activities like walking, running, throwing, lifting, kicking, etc. Gross motor abilities also form the basis for fine motor skills and relate to body awareness, reaction speed, balance and strength.
Fine motor coordination refers to the use and control of small muscles in the body in order to engage in various tasks requiring fine motor control and manipulation. Fine motor coordination skills are important for tasks and skills such as copying shapes and letters, colouring, cutting, buttoning/zipping, and self-feeding. This foundational skill is important for kids to be able to plan out their motor actions to participate in age-appropriate activities.
By exploring many different types of movement, your child can build the confidence, motivation and physical competence to engage in an active lifestyle.
Adequate motor co-ordination is needed for many of the tasks we complete every day. Children and young people with motor skills difficulties may take longer than their peers to master self-care activities and may struggle to learn tasks such as tying shoelaces or riding a bike. Difficulty mastering motor skills can also result in academic under-performance. Recognising the areas in which a child is struggling and helping them to find strategies which work for them will help them to gradually develop confidence and independence.
- Focus on one area at a time and keep goals small
- Find out the young person’s priorities – what is it that they want or need to be able to do?
- If appropriate teach the child to use a cognitive approach – for example Goal, Plan, Do, Check. This might need to be used for each stage of the motor task.
- Encourage regular participation in a physical activity which the child enjoys (this could be walking the family dog, playing at the local play area during quiet times, child-friendly yoga, or a specific sport or activity which your child is interested in and is geared to their level of ability)
- Consider using the MATCH strategy when thinking about how to support your child with learning a new skill. This can be used as an approach at home and school.
The MATCH Strategy:
Five things that can be done to help the child when learning a new task or to help match an activity to their ability:
- Modify the task – consider the size and weight of tools used, time allowed, could technology be used, i.e. typing not writing?
- Alter your expectations – what’s the ultimate goal? Can the child demonstrate the ultimate goal in a different way? i.e. completing a spelling test verbally rather than writing.
- Teaching strategies – break the task down into steps and teach one step at a time, use their verbal and thinking skills – ask questions, i.e. what’s next? Where do your feet need to go?, encourage reflection and evaluation.
- Change the environment – consider light, noise, visual distractions i.e. clutter, are table / chair position – are heights correct, writing slope?, think about tools and equipment, use worksheets / photocopies instead of copying notes from the board, think about locker position (end of the row, close to classroom), use of checklists/ prompt cards/ sequence strips.
- Help by understanding – recognise the child’s strengths and difficulties. Support them to find strategies which work for them.
CanChild M.A.T.C.H. Available at:
See also the Dressing Skills example using the M.A.T.C.H. strategy in the next section of this page.
|SHOES||Slip on or Velcro fastenings||Laces and buckles|
|TROUSERS||Elastic waistbands, loose fitting||Hook and eye, buttons and belts|
|JACKETS & COATS||Large, sturdy zips Add a zipper pull to make the tab easier to hold and pull up||Poppers, buttons|
|SCARVES||Neck tube type/snood||Long scarves|
|GLOVES/MITTENS||Mittens or more rigid gloves that go over the coat sleeve||Tight, stretchy gloves that go under the coat sleeve|
|BACKPACKS||Large enough to hold all items that need to go to school. Sturdy zips – add zipper pulls to make them easier to manage||Clips and buckles|
|LUNCH BAG AND CONTAINERS||Big enough to hold lunch and snack foods. Plastic drinks container with flip up straw or pull out spout. Easy to open plastic containers.||Tight fit containers. Drinks cartons with plastic straws.|