Background: Fundamental Motor Skills (FMS) are important building blocks for children’s sport-participation and lifelong physical activity. In the last decade, several international studies have reported delays in the development of FMS. To get better insight into the Dutch situation and to provide future directions, this study examined the development of FMS in Dutch primary school children.
Method: The main goal of this study is to compare FMS of 11–12-year-old Dutch children in 2016 with scores of similarly-aged-children in 2006. In addition, gender, age, BMI were taken into account, to see whether changes in motor performance are related to these child characteristics. FMS-test scores on seven motor competence tests (balance, swing, jump, roll, shoot, throwing and catching, and tennis) from 1939 children in 2016 were set side by side with those of 1648 children in 2006. Temporal changes in motor competence scores were analyzed using regression-analysis.
Results: This cross-sectional study shows better results for the children in 2006 compared to similarly-aged-children in 2016. Lower scores were found on six out of seven tested FMS, with the largest declines on the object control skills tennis and throwing and catching. Only vaulting jump skills remained on the same level. Overall, children with a higher BMI scored lower on all tests, except for throwing and catching via the wall. On the balancing, jumping and tennis test, the gap with children with a lower BMI widened over the last decade. Girls showed a lower competence level on rolling, shooting and throwing and catching
compared to boys. During the last decade, their performance on the tennis test decreased more than for boys.
Conclusions: Results of this study are alarming as diminishing motor skills are related to lower sport participation and poorer health outcomes. For the future generation, new interventions are needed to help children reach a sufficient proficiency level in FMS, to prevent or overcome the negative effects of lowered motor skills. Targeting FMS components during physical education and outside of school hours may potentially be a valuable strategy in reverting the lowering FMS levels amongst children