Poor preschoolers lack basic motor skills

April 29th, 2010 - 4:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, April 29 (IANS) Poor urban preschoolers aren’t only at risk of failure in the classroom - they are likely to struggle on playgrounds and athletic fields also as they lack basic motor skills.
A new study found that more than eight out of every 10 disadvantaged preschoolers from two urban areas showed significant developmental delays in basic motor skills such as running, jumping, throwing, and catching.

That means they are at risk of giving up on physical activities and becoming obese teenagers and adults, said Jackie Goodway, associate professor of physical activity and educational services at Ohio State University (OSU) who led the study.

“These fundamental motor skills - running and catching and throwing and kicking - are the movement ABCs,” Goodway said.

“If children don’t learn the ABCs, they can’t read. And if they don’t learn basic motor skills they won’t participate in sports or exercise. That’s the problem we may be facing with the children in this study,” she said.

Goodway conducted the study with two of her former doctoral students — Leah Robinson, now at Auburn University and Heather Crowe, now at Towson University.

The researchers studied 469 preschool students enrolled in urban, state-funded programmes serving disadvantaged youth.

The children were evaluated using a standardised test of motor skills. They participated in tests of locomotor skills which included running, jumping, hopping, leaping, sliding and galloping.

Results showed that 86 percent of the children scored below the 30th percentile of children nationwide, which is considered developmentally delayed.

While girls and boys had similar scores on the locomotor skills, girls did significantly worse than boys on object control activities in which they used an object such as a ball or a bat.

In general, girls of every socioeconomic category perform more poorly than boys do in the object control tests, Goodway said. However, disadvantaged girls do much worse than other girls on these tests.

“Like any skill, there needs to be instruction, there needs to be practice, there needs to be feedback. That’s how children master these motor skills,” Goodway said.

The study appeared in a recent issue of Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport.

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