More activities needed to promote early object control skills
Under the guidance of physical education teachers, schoolgirls in South Africa should be exposed to more activities that promote early object control skills.
This is one of the recommendations of a study conducted by Marilette Visagie in conjunction with Prof Anita Pienaar and Prof Dané Coetzee of the Physical Activity, Sport and Recreation (PhASRec) focus area in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the North-West University (NWU).
Their research paper is titled “Activity preferences of 9 to 10-year-old girls and the relationship between object control skills and physical activity Levels: The NW-Child Study.”
Early object control (OC) skills refer to the ability to move and receive items with accuracy and control. In sport and in day-to-day life, common OC skills are throwing, catching and scribbling.
Proficiency in these skills is important throughout life. In particular, they are reported to be related to long-term physical activity. In other words, people with good OC skills are likely to be active for longer than those without them.
Focusing on nine and 10-year-old girls, the PhASRec researchers looked at participation in moderate and high-intensity physical activities and the relationship between physical activity levels and OC skills. They also considered ethnic differences in activity preferences.
How the study worked
OC skills were assessed in 406 girls by means of the Test of Gross Motor Development-2 (TGMD-2), while the Children’s Leisure Activities Study Survey was used to assess physical activities and patterns in the girls (89 white, 317 black) with a mean age of 9,86 years.
The activity choices of white and black girls differed; where black girls spent a high percentage of their time (83,60%) doing household chores, walking, rope skipping and playing street soccer, white girls engaged more in sports and non-organised activities.
Significantly more white girls than black girls participated in moderate and high-intensity activities.
The researchers found that while South African girls are physically active, the activities they engage in do not have a very strong relationship with their OC skills proficiency. Thus, girls should receive more exposure to activities that could assist in developing these skills.
More studies needed
The researchers recommended further studies be done on this topic to increase understanding of the physical habits of young girls in order to improve their physical activity levels and their health.
Of concern was that girls in low socio-economic areas do not have natural exposure to OC skills and engagement in physical activities due to cultural responsibilities that take a large percentage of their free time. The researchers said specific strategies are needed to promote greater exposure to suitable physical activities among these girls.
Early childhood is an important period in the fine motor skills development of a child and in establishing building blocks needed for positive physical activity behaviour. Schools are extremely important in improving physical activity, according to the researchers.
Physical activity should be encouraged in school playgrounds so that children can develop their OC skills. This is especially important in schools in low socio-economic environments, which are in need of equipment, play surfaces and spaces.
The researchers recommended that knowledgeable people in the field of motor development, such as well-trained physical education teachers, should be appointed in schools to develop the OC skills of children and identify and rectify poor proficiency timeously.
Taking early action may contribute to higher physical activity levels among young girls, thereby putting them on the right path to be healthy, active adults.