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Participation in organized sports can improve children’s motor skills

A recent study of children aged 3 to 7 showed that children’s motor skills were beneficial if a child was older and participated in organized sports. Additionally, the study provided insight into the importance of temperament traits for motor skills.

Specifically, traits such as activity and attention span persistence were found to be positively associated with motor skills. This was a rather new finding, as the association between motor skills and temperament in early childhood is not yet widely understood.

Essentially, motor skills include locomotor, ball and balance skills, all of which are present in daily living tasks like 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.

“Even though motor skills develop with age, skill development should always be stimulated consciously,” explains Donna Niemistö, a doctoral student at the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences at Jyväskylä University. “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 an ongoing study, we found more evidence that participating in organized sports may be helpful in having more opportunities to practice and repeat essential movements. “

Temperament and its traits refer to the biological and individual characteristics of a child, such as the biological way of reacting to his environment.

The temperament is rather stable over time. To date, there have been only a handful of studies regarding 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. “

“A child with an active temperament may 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 the acquisition of 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,” continues 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, it is not necessary to insist that an active child be more active,” explains 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. As the assessment tools chosen measured divergent aspects of motor development, differences between associated factors related to motor skills were also found.

Development of balance and coordination skills was better in children described as being more emotionally regulated. In contrast, 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 close vicinity. “

Donna Niemisto, PhD., Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences, University of Jyvaskyla


Journal reference:

Niemisto, D., et al. (2020) Individual, familial and environmental correlates of motor competence in young children: regression model analysis of data obtained from two motor tests. International Journal of Environmental and Public Health Research.

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