Exploring the effects and specificity of playground activities on motor skills in 5 years old children
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Introduction: Levels of motor competence influence amount, intensity and level of physical activity performed by children. In turn, motor competence is built up on acquisition of both gross and fine motor skills. With this study we investigated in 110 five years old children the effects on motor skills of 10 sessions of outdoor motor activities played in the “Primo Sport 0246” playground (Treviso, Italy) where equipment and their distribution are controlled. Methods: One hundred and ten children 5 years old from 4 kindergartens in Treviso, Italy were studied. Of these, 71 (experimental group) played once a week for 10 consecutive weeks (March to May) in the “Primo Sport 0246” playground. Activities were organized as 30 minutes of free play and 30 minutes of controlled structured activities; the tools available to the children (monkey bars, hanging bar, climbing a net, climbing a rope, a rope ladder, gymnastic rings, balance tools) were aimed at training gross motor skills. The control group did not attend the playground. All 110 children were analyzed before and at the end of the 10-session period with sets of procedures aimed at measuring gross and fine motor skills , , . Results: Analysis of pre and post-training tests showed significant differences in the experimental but not in the control group in four gross motor tasks (one-leg balance-left foot, balance on beam, balance of platform, and putting a medicine ball). No significant differences were found in fine motor tasks. Conclusions: The data indicate that a (relatively limited) experience at the “Primo Sport 0246” playground positively stimulates improvements of gross motor skills but not fine motor skills. As the program in the playground was mainly focusing on training gross motor skills the results may demonstrate that increasing performance within fine motor skills may be regarded as specific.
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