Good motor control boosts learning

There is ongoing evidence to support the need for plenty of sports and active play in pre-, primary and secondary schools. 

A study by Uppsala University and published in the journal Psychological Science showed that babies with good motor skills are better at solving problems that require good cognitive skills.  More specifically, the study had 18 month olds performing a motor control task that tested speed and deduction skills, and an executive task where the children were given three different cognitive problems to solve. These three problems included the child’s ability to resist touching an attractive toy when told not to, a working memory component where the children had to recall in which of several drawers a toy had been placed and lastly finding a way of opening a transparent box containing a toy by means of a lever.

The researcher found a link between how the children performed the motor control element and the cognitive elements. “The children who were quick and successful in the motor control element were better at the tasks that required working memory than the children who were slower. They were also better at stopping themselves from reaching for the sparkly toy. These findings indicate a link between children’s motor skills and their cognitive development. ‘The body might shape their mind’ – this is a strong argument for the importance of physical activity, for focusing on sports and active play in preschool,” says Janna Gottwald, the researcher.

She believes that knowing this link can help children with motor control issues. If this aspect receives attention and the child is given intensive help, they may be able to avoid learning problems later in life.

“If we can see early on that a child’s motor skills are not developing as expected, it could be a sign that the child needs help with cognitive development later in life. This gives us the chance to prevent problems and plan for special educational interventions early in school and preschool,” says Janna Gottwald.



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