Program reveals kids are lagging behind in basic physical skills

KIDDO

A program run by The University of Western Australia has found many Perth children are falling short of developing basic physical skills.

The UWA team tested more than 4000 children and found they lacked basic skills ranging from balance to running, jumping and ball skills. The team developed an eight week program concentrated on those areas and saw vast improvements.

The UWA KIDDO program, the largest of its kind in Perth, involved children aged between three and eight years with support from 41 schools and 11 early childhood education and care centres.

UWA KIDDO Program Director Amanda Derbyshire, from UWA’s School of Human Sciences, said if children did not develop basic movement skills by the time they were 10 there was a strong chance they would be less active throughout childhood and as an adult, have less social confidence, and have a higher risk of mental health issues and other health problems such as obesity and diabetes.

“It’s vital we get children moving early and make physical development a key component of their daily routine when at school or in early childhood education and care,” Ms Derbyshire said. “A quality program at school and early childhood education and care is crucial because they spend a large amount of their time there.

“There was a 61 per cent improvement in over-arm throwing, and a 13 per cent improvement in general movement skills through the program. The average pre-primary child who could throw three metres at the start of the program could throw 4.8 metres in just eight weeks.”

Associate Professor Hayley Christian, Senior Research Fellow at UWA’s School of Population and Global Health and the Telethon Kids Institute said many early childhood education and care providers were falling short of meeting basic physical activity requirements with only 16 per cent having a written physical activity policy.

“Because there are no standard policies to guide early childhood education and care providers, it is up to their own judgement to determine a suitable physical development program,” Dr Christian said.

“We need national programs and sustainable funding models to support early childhood education and care providers and help our kids move well for optimal health, development and life success.”

Through the Play Spaces and Environments for Children’s Physical Activity (PLAYCE) partnership project Dr Christian is working on how early childhood education and care services might implement the policies to meet the National Quality Standard.

“The success of the KIDDO program provides a case study of just what could be achieved if national policies were in place,” she said.

“Our research indicates that the average kindergarten kid can bounce a ball eight times in 20 seconds, whereas 20 years ago they could bounce and catch the ball 14 times.”

The KIDDO program is made possible with support from Healthway. Healthway supports evidence-based initiatives to deliver positive health outcomes for the WA community. It is open to primary schools, early childhood education and care providers, parents and the public with a range of resources to help childhood physical development and more information is available at www.kiddo.edu.au/about-kiddo-program

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