Parents who encourage their pre-school children to favour sport over sedentary play involving video games or mobile device games may be enhancing their cognitive development and future learning abilities.
“The extent to which a child develops literacy and language skills is related to the development of fundamental movement skills. Early motor skills development helps lay the foundation for early learning and language development,” says Mr Micheal Lim, Senior Clinical Exercise Physiologist, Sports Medicine Service, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH).
A child develops basic walking and running skills naturally, but for more complex movement skills such as leaping, jumping, throwing and catching, children need facilitated play and structured activities, and usually, need to be taught in a sequential manner.
“Development of fundamental movement skills is especially important for children aged 3 to 10,” adds Mr Lim.
Types of fundamental movement skills
- Locomotive movement skills
Involve moving the body from one place to another (e.g. leaping, jumping, hopping, walking, running).
- Manipulative movement skills
Involve the ability to control objects using hands and feet (e.g. throwing, catching, striking).
- Balancing skills
These help to stabilise the body when it is stationary (e.g. standing on one leg – an example of static balance) or in motion (e.g. walking across a beam – an example of dynamic balance).
How fundamental movement skills impact learning
Fundamental movement skills are essential because they stimulate a child’s brain development. When children engage in movement play, they are constantly interacting with the surrounding social and physical environment. This forces their body and mind to interact, and in the process, they form neural connections, which helps develop sensory motor pathways.
Continuous sensory integration arising from movement helps provide a foundation for more complex sensory integration required for learning tasks such as reading, writing and numeracy, as well as psychomotor skills like riding a bike.
Psychomotor skills require balance and complex hand-eye coordination. Once learnt, they become automatic.
Developing fundamental motor skills
Here are some activities that parents can facilitate to help their children develop various fundamental motor skills:
- Long jump (into a sandpit)
- Ball games
- Throwing balloons in the air and catching them
- Kite flying
- Kicking and dribbling (e.g. soccer)
- Walking in line (e.g., pretending to walk on a tightrope)
- Mini obstacle course