Background There is a relatively small body of research on the motor performance of children with mild intellectual disabilities (MID) and borderline intellectual functioning (BIF). Adequate levels of motor skills may contribute to lifelong enjoyment of physical activity, participation in sports and healthy lifestyles. The present study compares the motor skills of children with intellectual disability (ID) to the abilities observed in typically developing children. It also aimed to determine whether there is an association between degree of ID and motor performance.Methods A total of 170 children between 7 and 12 years old with MID or BIF, who attended schools for special education, were examined on the test component of the Movement Assessment Battery for Children (MABC) test. Both groups were compared with the norm scores of the total score, sub-scale scores and individual items of the MABC test.Results Of the children, 81.8% with MID and 60.0% with BIF performed below the 16th percentile on the total score of the MABC. Both groups demonstrated a relative weakness in the area of manual dexterity. Comparisons between both groups showed small to moderate effect sizes on the total score of the MABC, as well as for all three sub-scales, favouring the children with BIF.Conclusions Children with ID had significantly more borderline and definite motor problems than the normative sample and there was an association between degree of ID and performance of manual dexterity, ball skills and balance skills. This study highlights the importance of improving motor skill performance in both children with borderline and mild ID, and the results support the notion that the level of motor and cognitive functioning are related in children with ID. © 2010 The Authors. Journal of Intellectual Disability and Research © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.