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Children’s personality traits related to motor skills

A new Finnish study shows a link between children’s temperament and their motor skills.

Researchers at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland found that children with an active temperament and persistent attention span tend to have stronger motor skills. This was a rather new finding, as the association between motor skills and temperament in early childhood is not yet widely understood. The team also found that participating in organized sports and being older were positively related to motor skills.

The results are published in the International Journal of Environmental and Public Health Research.

In general, motor skills include locomotor, ball and balance skills, all of which are present in daily living tasks such as running, climbing, throwing and drawing. Adequate motor skills allow participation in games and types of play typical for different ages and stages of development, for example, in tag, running and ball games.

The Skilled Kids study, conducted from 2015 to 2017, involved a sample of 945 children (aged 3 to 7) and their families from 37 different nurseries in Finland. The children’s temperament traits and their participation in organized sports were assessed using a parental questionnaire.

“Even though motor skills develop with age, skill development should always be consciously stimulated,” explains Donna Niemistö, Doctor of Science. student of the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences, University of Jyväskylä.

“Motor skills don’t develop without practice, so skills need to be strengthened through repetition of skills. The development of motor skills is greatly enhanced when the child moves in several ways. In a current study, we found more evidence that participating in organized sports can be helpful in gaining more opportunities to practice and repeat essential movements.

Temperament and its traits refer to the biological and individual characteristics of a child, such as his instinctive way of reacting to his environment. The temperament is rather stable over time. To date, very few studies have looked at the motor skills and temperament traits of young children, although in older groups more research is already available.

“Children who tend to have an active temperament, as well as children who show persistence in the face of challenges can be motivated and persistent in learning and repeating motor tasks. Therefore, these results were expected and logical, ”said Niemistö.

“A child with an active temperament can react more quickly. Therefore, the child will have more opportunities to move with increased repetitions. Without realizing it, the child will also have more opportunities to perform motor tasks.

In addition, the ability to maintain attention is just as important for learning skills.

“To learn new skills you need to be able to focus and stay focused even though the skill may at first seem difficult or even difficult,” said Niemistö.

Both temperament traits can influence the development of motor skills. Therefore, it is important that parents as well as early childhood educators and teachers are aware of these individual factors in case they wish to encourage and support the development of motor skills in their children.

“For example, there is no need to insist that an active child be more active,” said Niemistö. “However, with an active child, a parent could guide the child to maintain focus and attention despite possible distractions in the environment.”

Motor skills were assessed using two internationally recognized measures. The first assessment tool measured the child’s locomotor and ball skills, and the second the child’s balance and coordination skills.

“Development of balance and coordination skills was better in children described as being more emotionally regulated,” Niemistö said. “On the other hand, locomotor skills were better in children whose parents had a higher level of education, and the development of ball skills was favored if the children had free access to sports facilities in the nearby surroundings.

Source: University of Jyväskylä

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