- Background: Early childhood is filled with incredible growth in all areas of development and offers a critical period for optimal learning (Lerner, 2002). During this critical period both motor skills (Bouffard, Watkinson, Thompson, Causgrove Dunn, & Romanow, 1996; Clark & Metcalfe, 2002; Lubans, Morgan, Cliff, Barnett, & Okely, 2010; Stodden et al., 2008), as well as self-regulation skills develop (Blair, 2002). Recent empirical research suggests active play, during early childhood, may help establish healthy behaviors and play a role in early childhood development through improving cognitive, social, and emotional health (Ginsburg, 2007). Previous research indicates success in the classroom requires strong self-regulation skills, such as attention, memory, and inhibitory control (Blair, 2002). Yet, the role of motor skills amidst other developmental indicators of school readiness is not well documented. Thus, the purpose of this project was to examine the relationship between motor skills and aspects of school readiness in young children between the ages of 3-5 years from at-risk populations.
Methods: This descriptive, cross-sectional study included a sample of 162 children with at least one biological (e.g. disability) or environmental (e.g. low-income) risk factor, per parent report, from two geographical areas in the US. Individual assessments of gross and fine motor skills, behavioral self-regulation, early literacy, and early math skills were used to examine associations between motor skills and early indicators of school readiness.
Results: Results of hierarchical regression analyses demonstrated that preschool gross and fine motor skills significantly predicted indicators of school readiness, specifically behavioral self-regulation and early academic achievement. Further analysis indicated fine motor skills predicted school readiness over gross motor skills, even after controlling for age (in months) and site.
Conclusion: This study found positive relations, with specific aspects of fine motor skills and early indicators of school readiness. These findings have implications for school readiness initiatives focused on improving early developmental trajectories for preschool aged children from at-risk populations.