Sensory Motor Skills

Movement Makes “Sense”

Sensory motor skills involve getting stimuli from the environment through the senses, which are processed by the brain; the brain then sends the required information for action to the appropriate body part.


Talia joins a soccer program for the summer. Today the girls are practicing kicking the ball; it is Talia’s turn to practice kicking. Her coach tells her to line her body up a few feet away from the ball, to look at the ball ahead of her, then approach the ball, and kick.


This process of telling Talia how to kick the ball may seem unnecessary, but it is a clear example of the steps children use with their sensory motor skills to achieve a motor task.

Early on, we defined sensory motor skills as including the senses; one of those senses is the vestibular (movement and balance) sense. It has a huge influence in your child’s daily life.

Vestibular sense helps your child keep her balance, provides coordination for movement of her head with her eyes, gives her the ability to use both sides of her body together, and allows her to remain upright against the pull of gravity (like when a strong wind blows). It is a prerequisite skill for whole-body locomotion or movement. For example, being able to stand without falling allows for putting on pants; this motor skill also permits exploration of your child’s surrounding space and the objects in it.

When the vestibular sense is working efficiently and effectively in your child, it will free up all the rest of her higher cognitive functioning and motor skills.

Maintaining balance is vitally important because it provides a base on which she can build other physical skills.

Below is an example of a specific activity you can do with your child. Start by doing the activity one time a week, then build up to two times a week; continue on a daily basis as you watch your child grow.

Eye movement control exercise (seeing supports focus, which supports balance)

Many parents have at least one set of blocks at home. Sit with your child and create block designs. To get prepared for this activity, take five or 10 square blocks and arrange them in a shape on a piece of paper. Trace around the outside of the shape. Repeat this process four more times, creating four different block shapes on paper.

Then give your child the paper and his blocks, and ask your child to f it the blocks inside the shape by placing them on the paper. At first you will see your child putting the blocks inside the shape but not paying attention to the lines. This is why it will be important for you to demonstrate one shape and then let him do the rest himself.

It is important that parents help their children develop their use of the senses to support locomotion and navigation in the world around them by continuously providing movement experiences.

It is difficult for your child to integrate multisensory skills for balance and locomotion because his sensory and motor capabilities are still developing. Tasks such as learning to swim may take more time, but that does not mean they should not be at tempted.