Motor skills in PreSchools
The project includes the preschool children in the municipality of Svendborg and will focus on the relationship between motor skills and present as well as future health, with special emphasis on musculoskeletal health, cognition and general wellbeing. The overall aims are to 1) investigate whether a structured program aimed at improving motor skills in 3-6-year old children will improve current and future motor skills, health, cognition and wellbeing; 2) describe normal motor skills in 3-6-year olds; and 3) establish a population-based cohort of 3-6-year olds.
Good motor skills are considered important for children's physical, social and psychological development and may even be the foundation for an active lifestyle, since several studies have shown a positive association between good motor skills and higher levels of physical activity. Consequently, there is evidence of many health benefits to be gained from an improvement in motor skills. For instance, it has been demonstrated that good motor skills positively influence cardiorespiratory fitness, body weight as well as sports participation, all suggesting that early competency in motor skills may have important health implications. Furthermore, there are indications of relationships with language development, executive function and general wellbeing. However, most of the existing studies of motor performance are cross-sectional and therefore do not provide evidence of a potential causal relationship, or they include only short-term follow-up. Thus, there is a real need for more longitudinal studies on the importance of motor skills with long-term follow-up, including both biological and psychological outcomes.
The toddler and preschool age appears to be a particularly important period for the development of motor skills, since the level of motor skills may remain stable over time and motor development deficits observed in early childhood are still apparent in adolescence. Early childhood is also the age where practicing fundamental motor skills is necessary to create a foundation for more complex movement activities later in life. In the Municipality of Svendborg, 94% of 3-5-year old children attend preschool, and thus, the preschools are ideal arenas to provide equal opportunities for all children, despite socioeconomic background, as they have the potential to help develop and improve motor skills for all.
The Municipality will initiate an intervention in its preschools aimed at improving motor skills in children by September 2016. The effectiveness of the intervention will be investigated in a cluster randomized, controlled trial (RCT) focused on improvement in motor skills as well as several secondary effects. Importantly, the extensive testing of these children at an early age will form the basis of a cohort with potential for long-term follow up, which will enable investigations into the long-term development of motor skills, musculoskeletal disorders, physical activity, language, cognitive abilities and social skills and the interrelations between these domains. In addition, the predictive ability of early markers for child development and health within these domains can be assessed. Thus, in addition to assessing the effectiveness of the intervention developed for this project, we will provide an evidence base for future strategies for optimizing children's health, wellbeing and cognitive and language development.
The overall aims of this research are to 1) investigate whether a structured programme aimed at improving motor skills in 3-6-year old children will improve current and future motor skills, health, cognition and wellbeing; 2) describe normal motor skills in 3-6-year olds; and 3) establish a population-based cohort of 3-6-year olds.
Objectives to be investigated using a cluster randomized controlled trial design:
To determine whether a structured motor skills intervention in preschool can
- Improve movement patterns
- Increase physical activity
- Improve language development
- Improve general wellbeing
- Improve executive function
Objectives to be investigated using a cross-sectional and longitudinal cohort design
- To establish normative Danish data on motor skills at ages three, four and five.
- To determine incidence, prevalence and patterns of development of musculoskeletal problems in children
- To study the short and long term relationship between motor performance and
- musculoskeletal health
- physical activity and overweight
- language development
- general wellbeing
- executive function.
Description of the cohort
All the children attending public preschools in the Municipality of Svendborg (84% of the population in the age group) will be invited. In January 2015, this involved 1,607 children attending 32 preschools, 17 of which will take part in the RCT. Based on experience from a previous programme involving public schools in the same municipality, we expect a child participation rate of 80-90%, which will result in approximately 1,400 children for the cohort study. Baseline testing of children in the preschools, which are not included in the RCT, will take place during February and March 2016. The governing boards of 17 of the preschools (814 children in January 2015) have agreed to take part in the RCT. These preschools will be cluster-randomized to either the intervention or the control. The intervention will be phased in, starting in April 2016, and baseline testing will take place the week prior to intervention start. The children starting school in August 2016 will be excluded due to the short intervention period. Following the initial inclusion, there will be running inclusion into the study (for both the cohort and the RCT) throughout the rest of 2016, as new children enrol in the preschools.
Data and biological material
Gross motor skills, physical fitness and functional performance, fine motor skills, and anthropometry will be measured by trained research staff at baseline and once a year while the child attends preschool. During the school years, anthropometry will be measured regularly by the school nurse, and examination grades as well as results from national academic tests will be available.
All of the tests are subject to change pending results of pilot tests which will be performed during 2015-16 to determine the feasibility, validity and reproducibility for this age group and in this setting.
Collaborating researchers and departments
Research Unit for Clinical Biomechanics, Department of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics, University of Southern Denmark
- Associate Professor Lise Hestbæk
- Professor and Head of Research Unit Jan Hartvigsen
- Projekt worker Orla Lund Nielsen
- Associate Professor Henrik H. Lauridsen
Secretariat and Daycare, Municipality of Svendborg
- Head of Department Birgit Lindbergh
Center for Research in Childhood Health, Department of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics, University of Southern Denmark
- Associate Professor Anders Grøntved
Center for Child Language, University of Southern Denmark and Tryg Foundations Centre for Child Research, University of Aarhus
National Center for Psychotraumatology, Institute of Psychology, University of Southern Denmark
Research Unit Active Living, Department of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics, University of Southern Denmark
- Associate Professor Jens Troelsen
Research Unit for Movement, Culture and Society, Department of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics, University of Southern Denmark
- Associate Professor Thomas Skovgaard
Research Unit for Exercise Epidemiology and Research in Childhood Health, Department of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics, University of Southern Denmark
- Associate Professor Peter Lund Kristensen
Department of Psychology, University of Southern Denmark
- Associate Professor Mette Elmose
TrygFonden's Centre for Child Research, Department of Economics and Business Economics, Aarhus University
- Professor Simon Calmar Andersen
Publications associated with the project
Hestbaek L, Vach W, Andersen ST, Lauridsen HH. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Nov 23;18(23):12272. doi: 10.3390/ijerph182312272. PMID: 34885998
Speedtsberg M, Harsted S, Hestbæk L, Lauridsen HH, Bencke J, Holsgaard-Larsen A. Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 2021 Apr;84:105321. doi: 10.1016/j.clinbiomech.2021.105321. Epub 2021 Mar 13. PMID: 33765569
Harsted S, Holsgaard-Larsen A, Hestbæk L, Boyle E, Lauridsen HH. Chiropr Man Therap. 2019 Aug 11;27:39. doi: 10.1186/s12998-019-0261-z. eCollection 2019. PMID: 31417672
Hestbaek L, Andersen ST, Skovgaard T, Olesen LG, Elmose M, Bleses D, Andersen SC, Lauridsen HH. Trials. 2017 Aug 29;18(1):400. doi: 10.1186/s13063-017-2143-9. PMID: 28851412
Klein-Wengel TT, Nielsen JV, Smedegaard S, Skovgaard T. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Dec 12;18(24):13119. doi: 10.3390/ijerph182413119.