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Children's temperament could affect their motor skills

Researchers say involvement in sports can also come into play

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Photo (c) yaoinlove - Getty Images
The development of motor skills allows kids to accurately hold pens and pencils, play games, or run around the playground, and a new study explored how various factors can affect the development of such skills. 

Researchers from the University of Jyväskylä found that a child’s temperament, along with both age and involvement in sports, can play a role in how children develop motor skills. 

“Children who tend to have an active type of temperament, as well as children who show persistency when faced with challenges, can be motivated and persistent in learning and rehearsing motor tasks,” said researcher Donna Niemistö. 

“Therefore, these findings were expected and logical. A child with an active temperament can react more rapidly. Consequently, the child will get more opportunities to move along with increased repetitions. Without noticing, the child will also gain more opportunities to perform motor tasks.” 

Understanding development

The researchers analyzed data from the Skilled Kids study, which included information on nearly 1,000 kids between the ages of three and seven. The study assessed the kids’ motor function based off of four primary components: balance, locomotor skills, coordination, and ball skills. 

The researchers learned that several factors affected the development of motor skills, including age and temperament, with different skills being impacted by different factors. The study also revealed that kids who participate in organized sports could have a leg up on fine-tuning these skills. 

“The development of balance and coordination skills was better in those children who were described as emotionally regulated,” said Niemistö. “On the other hand, locomotor skills were better in children whose parents had higher educational level, and the development of ball skills benefited if children had free access to sport facilities in nearby surroundings.” 

Though kids’ temperaments don’t generally change over time, parents can adapt their approach to help encourage their young ones to work on certain tasks. This can look like eliminating distractions, or being more proactive about engaging in physical activity or sports, depending on the child’s needs. 

Moreover, the researchers also explained that as kids grow, their motor skills naturally develop, but consistency and practice are key to achieving the best outcomes. 

“Even though motor skills develop as a function of age, skill development still needs to be stimulated consciously,” Niemistö said. “Motor skills do not develop without practising, thus skills need reinforcement through repetition of the skills. Motor skill development is greatly supported when the child is moving in multiple ways. In a current study we found more evidence that participation in organised sports can be useful to gain more opportunities to practise and repeat essential movements.” 

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