While the latest Active Healthy Kids Australia statistics show Aussie kids are flatlining in terms of their physical activity participation, researchers from the University of South Australia are ensuring pre-schoolers have the best opportunities to move well, as they deliver new guidelines to better evaluate children’s developing movement skills.
The first of its kind, the research examined the feasibility of Fundamental Movement Skill (FMS) assessments used to check pre-school aged children’s physical competence, finding that the most popular assessments performed poorly when compared to the less-frequently used counterparts.
Lead researcher, UniSA’s Brooke Klingberg says the research highlights a gap in the early childhood sector.
“Early childhood is a critical time for children to develop FMS – running, hopping, jumping, throwing, catching, kicking and balancing – all the foundation skills children need for healthy physical development,” Klingberg says.
“Competence in these skills means children are more likely to participate in physical activity and sport as they age, as well as have better levels of fitness and overall better health outcomes.
“But when testing for children’s FMS, pre-schools need to consider a whole range of factors – how much time is allocated for each child, the skills and training of the assessor, the type of equipment used and even the physical space available – and all of these elements can impact the ability of pre-schools to effectively use the assessments.
“Our new guidelines will let pre-school teachers, clinicians and researchers choose the FMS tool most suited for their circumstances, thereby reducing the chance that a child needing early intervention services will be overlooked.”
The research examined 65 studies, ranking each of the 13 unique FMS assessments against feasibility parameters. The highest scoring assessments were two newly developed tools, the Athletics Skills Track (AST) and the Democritos Movement Screening Tool for Preschool Children (DEMOST-PRE), while the most commonly used assessments, the Test of Gross Motor Development (TGMD-2) and the Movement Assessment Battery for Children (MABC), both scored poorly.
Klingberg says the results deliver important insights for early-childhood educators and clinicians.
“There are lots of FMS assessments currently available for use, but many are only used in a research and clinical setting,” Klingberg says.
“By comparing the range of FMS assessments, we’re able to show educators that other, more effective screening tools are available and those that are most commonly used tests, or those that they’re defaulted to, are not always the best.
“With growing demand for educators to administer FMS assessments within pre-schools, it makes sense that they have all the information to make an informed decision about the test that best suits their environment.
“This research ensures teachers are empowered so they can continue to support the children that they care for in the best practicable manner.”
(Source: University of South Australia)