Motor Planning and Projected Action Sequences

What is motor planning? And why is it necessary?

According to Ayres, motor planning is the ability of the brain to conceive of, organize, and carry out a sequence of unfamiliar actions; a component of praxis (2005). In other words, the ability to complete an activity that is new and you have not completed before. For example, a child that is young and has never done jumping jacks before vs. a child that is enrolled in school and does jumping jacks in gym class. For the younger child, jumping jacks would be a new and unfamiliar task to complete.

What is needed for motor planning to be successful?

Motor planning is used to learn new things until those activities become skills and do not require planning anymore. In order for motor planning to be successful, there are four areas that are needed:

  1. Body Scheme- awareness of our body parts and their relation to one another

  2. Awareness of body in space- awareness of body in space

  3. Bilateral integration/coordination- the ability to use both sides of your body in a coordinated way.

  4. Projected action sequences

What are projected action sequences?

Projected action sequences are the anticipation of future events in the environment and the ability to adjust actions to meet these conditions. These sequences involve appropriate timing and movement through space. These difficulties are associated with inefficiencies in processing vestibular and proprioceptive input.

Signs of difficulty may include:

  • Trouble catching or throwing a ball

  • Difficulty hitting a target

  • Running into objects frequently

  • May be able to kick a ball that is not moving but is unable to kick a ball that is moving.

Intervention strategies are aimed at enhancing vestibular and proprioceptive processing while enhancing the child’s ability to both plan and produce projected action sequences (Koomar & Bundy, 1991). A therapist may ask the child to generate ideas within an obstacle course or game. The more activities the child is able to generate, the more he/she is enhancing his/her motor planning skills.

Some ideas for parents include:

  • If your child struggles with sequencing and timing of actions, help your child use areas of strength and to work on and compensate for areas of greater challenge.

  • Breaking down activities into smaller, more manageable and attainable steps can help your child to experience more competence and build self-esteem

  • Help your child to engage in activities that require specific timing of body movements and anticipation of where and how tot move, such as kicking a rolled ball, using a jump rope, or hitting a ball with a bat.


Ayres, A. J., & Robbins, J. (2005). Sensory integration and the child. Los Angeles, Calif:


Marisa DiRienzo, OTS