Objectives: Educator-led programs for physical activity and motor skill development show potential but few have been implemented and evaluated using a randomized controlled design. Furthermore, few educator-led programs have evaluated both gross motor skills and physical activity. Therefore, the aim of this study was to evaluate a gross motor skill and physical activity program for preschool children which was facilitated solely by childcare educators.
Design: A six-month 2-arm randomized controlled trial was implemented between April and September 2012 in four early childhood centers in Tasmania, Australia.
Methods: Educators participated in ongoing professional development sessions and children participated in structured physical activity lessons and unstructured physical activity sessions.
Results: In total, 150 children were recruited from four centers which were randomized to intervention or wait-list control group. Six early childhood educators from the intervention centers were trained to deliver the intervention. Gross motor skills were assessed using the Test of Gross Motor Development (2nd edition) and physical activity was measured objectively using GT3X+ Actigraph accelerometers. No statistically significant differences were identified. However, small to medium effect sizes, in favor of the intervention group, were evident for four of the five gross motor skills and the total gross motor skill score and small to medium effect sizes were reported for all physical activity outcomes.
Conclusions: This study highlights the potential of educator-led physical activity interventions and supports the need for further translational trials within the early childhood sector.
Keywords: Gross motor skills; Intervention; Physical activity; Preschool; Translational trial.
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