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Motor skills of toddlers quickly deteriorate during lockdown

The motor skills of preschoolers from groups 1 and 2 deteriorated during the first lockdown. A large group of toddlers scored worse, especially on the balancing part. The lockdown was also disadvantageous for students who already have difficulty moving, according to research by the Mulier Institute.

A possible explanation for the decline is that education for preschoolers aged 4 to 5 is dynamic. They do not sit behind a table like students in higher classes. “We got this back from teachers,” says researcher Amika Singh of the Mulier Institute. “A day with the preschoolers is all about practicing balance. It is very active, the children are constantly doing something, for example in the play corner or the sandbox. So it's not just about moving during a gym class. During the lockdown, parents and children have implemented exercise during the day in different ways at home: perhaps not all parents prioritized sufficient exercise and play.”

'A day at school with the preschoolers is all about practicing balance'

With the report The Mulier Institute, known for its sports research, wants to map out the consequences of the first lockdown and missing gym lessons for motor skills in children aged 4 to 12 years. Six in ten students had no gym class between March 16 and June 7 last year, according to previous research. For this report, the researchers used multiple student tracking systems and selected two measurement moments from them. Namely before the outbreak of corona between September 2018 and December 2019 and after the first lockdown between May and December 2020. "The figures show that a larger proportion of children in groups 1-2 have less motor skills after the first lockdown", says Singh.

Balancing, bouncing and jumping

Especially in the balancing part, this is across the board in toddlers. This applies to all three groups in which preschoolers were classified according to how good their motor skills are: low, medium and high. In each group the balancing was backwards. Jumping sideways also got worse after the lockdown in toddlers who were classified in the low and middle groups. The parts balancing and jumping sideways remained about the same for students from group 5/6. In group 7/8 a deterioration can be seen in the low and middle level groups when it comes to bouncing, such as with a basketball, jumping or coordination.

The researchers conclude that the largest differences are visible in the youngest children and children who already had less motor skills before the first lockdown. These groups of children have worse scores after the lockdown. It is not surprising that children who have already moved less experience more disadvantages. "Research conducted during the first lockdown has shown that, especially among children who normally exercise little, more than a third have started to exercise even less," the report said.

It is not surprising that children who have already moved less are experiencing more disadvantages from the lockdown

jack up

The Mulier Institute proposes several solutions to boost motor skills. Singh: “Organizing the whole school day more actively is one example. Schools can pay attention to this and make exercise a more prominent part. It is also not good that children from group 3 all of a sudden sit still a lot.” Hiring specialist teachers is another idea. Today, half of the primary schools have a subject teacher.

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