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App helps parents improve their preschoolers’ motor skills in minutes a day

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) – Researchers are studying ways to prevent childhood obesity. There’s an app that could be a big step forward in teaching kids basic motor skills.

Tiffany Prather and her daughter, Ainsley, 7, like to stay active together.

“I’m a huge proponent of preventing obesity and keeping our kids physically active,” Prather said.

That’s why she enrolled her daughter in a 12-week program through the Pennington Biomedical Research Center. The “Play” app stimulates motor skills in preschoolers like running, throwing a ball and jumping.

“Obesity is truly a major public health crisis for us here in Baton Rouge and across the state,” said Dr. Amanda Staiano, associate professor at LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center. “One in three children is already overweight or suffers from obesity.”

Staiano said 77% of preschoolers are well below average when it comes to basic motor skills.

“We saw that in a study of 72 families, play was effective in helping children move from below average motor skill to average motor skill and that these children even maintained these improvements for six months” , explained Staiano.

Ainsley is still active, even years after doing the study. The three-month program takes about 12 minutes a day.

Educators encourage parents to engage in activities that strengthen children’s motor skill development early and break the cycle of obesity later.

“You have nothing to lose by participating in this program because it’s super easy. It’s on your app. It is available every day. Children – involve them,” Prather added.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

The researchers plan to make the app available to everyone in the coming months.

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