Interventions to improve fundamental motor skills in pre-school aged children: A systematic review and meta-analysis

J Sci Med Sport. 2017 Jul;20(7):658-666. doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2016.11.008. Epub 2017 Jan 23.


Objectives: Mastery in -fundamental motor skills (FMS) is associated with increased physical activity (PA) in school-aged children; however, there is limited research on pre-schoolers (3-5 years). We aimed to evaluate interventions for improving FMS as well as PA.

Design/methods: A search of electronic databases was conducted for controlled trials using PA interventions with FMS as outcomes in healthy pre-schoolers. Standardised mean difference (SMD), 95% confidence intervals and publication bias were calculated for each outcome using Revman 5.3.

Results: Twenty trials met inclusion criteria. In total, 4255 pre-schoolers were analysed with 854 completing a FMS intervention. Studies were categorised into three groups (i) Teacher-Led (TL)(n=13); (ii) Child-Centred (CC)(n=6) and (iii) Parent-Led (PL)(n=1). Mean age was 4.3±0.4 years, with equal gender distribution. Interventions ran for 21±17 weeks, 3±1 times per week for 35±17 minutes. TL interventions significantly improved overall FMS (SMD=0.14[0.06, 0.21]; p=0.0003), object control (SMD=0.47[0.15, 0.80]; p= 0.004), and locomotor skills (SMD=0.44[0.16, 0.73]; p=0.002), whereas CC interventions were not significant. There was a small, non-significant reduction in sedentary time (SMD=-0.35[-0.80, 0.10]; p= 0.12), and a large non-significant increase in PA (SMD=0.79[-0.83, 2.41]; p=0.34).

Conclusion: PA interventions improve FMS in pre-schoolers; however, due to limited research, more study is needed on CC interventions. Targeting FMS development in pre-schoolers may promote higher PA levels and reduce sedentary time, however more study is needed.

Keywords: Children; Fundamental motor skills; Physical activity.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Controlled Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Skills*
  • Physical Education and Training / methods*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic