Advances in Physical Education
2012. Vol.2, No.1, 17-21
Published Online February 2012 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 17
Physical Education in Kindergarten Promotes
Fundamental Motor Skill Development
Anderson G. Lemos1, Eric L. Avigo2, José A. Barela1,2,3
1Graduate Program, Human Movement Science, Institute of Physical Activity a n d S p o r t Science s ,
Cruzeiro do Sul Univer s i ty, São Paulo, Brazil
2Institute of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences, Cruzeiro do Sul Universi ty, São Paulo, Bra zil
3Department of Physical Education, Institute of Biosciences, São Paulo State University, Rio Claro, Brazil
Email: jose.barela@
Received October 8th, 2011; revised November 10th, 2011; accepted Novem ber 21st, 2011
Skill development is influenced by many factors and, among many, opportunity of practice and appropri-
ate instruction provided by teacher might be considered as key elements but still need to be empirically
investigated. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to compare gross motor development of young
children enrolled in physical education, provided by a specialist teacher, and children enrolled in recrea-
tional activities, provided by a regular teacher, in kindergarten. Fifty children were divided into two
groups: 25 children (age of 5.3 ± 0.3 years) constituted the physical education (PE) group and received
activities, once a week, ministered by a physical education teacher; 25 children (age of 5.2 ± 0.4 years)
constituted the recreational (RE) group and received activities, also once a week, supervised by a class-
room teacher. All these children were evaluated performing the locomotor and object control subtests of
Test of Gross Motor Development (TGMD-2) at the beginning and at the end of the school year. Per-
formance of both subtests were scored, according to the performance criteria of TGMD-2, by three ex-
perimenters, obtaining the raw skill score and the equivalent motor age for each subtest. Results revealed
that both children’s groups showed similar raw skill score and equivalent motor age before enrollment in
any activities, at the beginning of the year. Differently, after enrolment in the respective activities, PE
children showed higher raw skill score and equivalent motor age than RE children. These results demon-
strated that regular physical education, composed by structured practice, ministered by a specialist pro-
mote gross motor development of children even at young age such as in kindergarten.
Keywords: Physical Education; Children; School; Gross Motor Development
Although debatable, fundamental motor skills are considered
as building blocks of latter motor skill acquisition related to
sport-specific movements (Clark, 1994; Gallahue, 1982) and
skillfulness (Clark, 1994). Moreover, if gross motor develop-
ment is not mastered, children may experience lifelong difficul-
ties with later motor skill acquisition. Therefore, the acquisition
of gross motor skill is critical, but despite its importance, un-
fortunately, gross motor development has been overlooked by
many who work with early education (Clark, 2007).
Many might be the reasons for little attention to gross motor
skill acquisition, but the main reason comes from the assump-
tion that maturation would underlie gross motor or fundamental
motor skill development. Undoubtedly maturation plays an
important role in motor development course and acquisition
rate, but it might not be considered the sole factor contributing
to motor skill development (Thelen, 1986; Ulrich, 1989). Actu-
ally, the idea that maturation is the driving force responsible to
early motor skill acquisition is a misconception that limited our
understanding of the early underlying motor development
processes. Moreover, since maturation was though to be the
driven force for early motor skill acquisition, these skills were
not required to be taught in daily physical education in kinder-
garten and even in early elementary school years.
The misconception describe above, according to Clark (2007),
is due to the fact that early infants’ motor acquisition does not
have to be taught: infants learn how to sit, stand, and walk, for
instance, by themselves and latter the same happens with tod-
dlers running, jumping, and throwing. Since these early skill
acquisitions seem not require instruction or structured practice,
the misconception that maturation as the sole driving force per-
vaded early motor development understanding.
Despite happening without specific instruction and practice,
several researchers have question factors other than maturation
affecting even the so called fundamental motor pattern (Gallahue,
1982) and even suggested, based on unpublished data, that “…
the results of these and other investigations indicat e that the fun-
damental movement phase of development is greatly influenced
by environmental factors” (Gallahue, 1982: p. 248), which we
may add such as structured practi ce and instructions provided by
a teacher. Recently, Gallahue and Donnelly (2007) have sug-
gested that physical education in early school intervention is the
only place where children would be instructed and intervened in
order to achieve proficiency in fundamental motor patterns.
Recent explanations about motor development have empha-
sized that motor skills change through interactive processes be-
tween the individual and the environment (Clark, 1994; Thelen,
1995, 2000). In such a view, despite changes occurring in many
of the biological systems, which drive so me of the developmental
changes, our biological heritage is modulated continuously by
our interaction with the environment (Clark, 2007), which pro-
vides us with adaptation and learning. Many are the environ-
mental factors that might affect early motor skill acquisition, but
structured practice and instructions should be provided to all
children from kindergarten to high school. Moreover, these con-
ditions should be designed in order to help children to acquire
and, more importantly, refine motor skills in order to become
proficient (Clark, 2007). Therefore, the role of physical activity in
early school is critical and crucial for children’s motor develop-
ment proficiency.
Despite all its importance, the effects of early phy sical educa-
tion intervention, as part of school program, still need to be
showed. One difficulty in doing so is that motor development
throughout the first school years undergoes dramatic changes that
make the evaluation progress much complicated. Moreover, mo-
tor development in these early years should be a ssessed pri marily
in the gross motor skill pattern instead of quantitative mot or per-
formance. A test that might be used to early motor development
assessment, among many (Cools, Martelaer, Samaey, & An-
drias, 2008), is the Test of Gross Motor Development, second
edition (TGMD-2) (Ulrich, 2000). Several studies have used the
TGM D -2 to asse ss fundamental motor skill profi ciency in typical
(Bonifacci, 2004; Pang & Fong, 2009) and delayed develop men-
tal children (Bonifacci, 2004; Val entini & Rudisill, 2004 ) as well
in children with special needs (Houwen, Hartman, Jonker, &
Visscher, 2010; Niemeijer, Smits-Engelsman, & Schoemaker,
2007; Staples & Reid, 2010).
Considering that the TGMD-2 might provide useful informa-
tion regarding children’s gross motor development and its pro-
gress throughout the school age (Ulrich, 2000) and that the ef-
fects of physical education activities in children’s motor deve-
lopment still need to be examined, the purpose of this study was
to examine the gross motor development of children enrolled in
regular physical education activities, provided by a specialist,
and children enrolled in recreational activities provided by a
regular teacher, in kindergarten. Our main hypothesis was that
gross motor development of children enrolled in regular physical
education, provided by a specialist, would be superior of that
observed of children enrolled in recreational activi ties.
Fifty healthy children, aging from 5- to 6-year-old, from a
public school of Guarulhos city, São Paulo metropolitan area,
were selected to participate in this study. Children constituted
two groups that were randomly assigned to be exposed to dif-
ferent physical activities throughout the last kindergarten year.
Twenty-five children (15 boys and 10 girls) were enrolled in
physical education activities, 50-minute session ministered
once a week by a physical education specialist, and 25 children
(14 boys and 11 girls) were enrolled in recreational activities,
50-minute session provided also once a week by the classroom
teacher. Prior to enrollment in the study, children’s parents
were informed about the experimental procedures and provided
a written informed consent form approved by the Institutional
Review Board.
Children assigned to the physical education activity group (PE)
experienced, throughout the school year, activities ministered by
a physical education teacher. These physical education activities
followed the educational kindergarten guidelines, which was
composed by cooperative games and activities involving fun-
damental motor skills in an enjoyable and playful environment.
Children assigned to the recreational activity group (RE) ex-
perienced, throughout the school year, activities mostly deve-
loped in the school playground, with children playing by them-
selves under the supervision of the classroom teacher.
The TGMD-2 (Ulrich, 2000) was employed in this study in
order to assess fundamental motor abilities. All data collection
was conducted in the school facility. Prior to testing, children’s
anthropometric information, height and body mass, was ob-
tained. Following, children were videotaped performing both
locomotor and object control subtest abilities, using two cam-
eras (Sony-Model DCR-HC96). One camera was placed in one
area of the school in such way that all the locomotor abilities
could be videotaped. Similarly, the second camera was placed
nearby and used to videotape all the object control abilities. A
number was assigned to each child and used for all further
identification during analysis.
Preceding assessment, an accurate demonstration and verbal
description of the skill, following TGMD-2 instructions (Ulrich,
2000), were provided to the child by an experienced physical
education instructor. After, the child was given one practice trial
to assure that the child understood what to do. If the child did
not appear to understand the task or had not performed correctly
the practice trial, additional demonstration and instructions were
provided by the same physical educator. In this case, one physi-
cal education instructor was responsible by the locomotor sub-
test abilities and another physical education instructor was re-
sponsible by the object control subtest abilities. Each child then
performed two trials for each gross motor skill, first all the lo-
comotor subtest abilities and then all the object control abilities.
All the procedures for each child took from 15 to 20 minutes.
Children from both groups were videotaped at the beginning
of school year (March—second month of the Brazilian school
year) and at the end of the school year (November—last month
of the Brazilian school year), therefore, children were assessed
eight months apart during the last year of the kindergarten Bra-
zilian School System. All the procedures, including the physi-
cal education instructors, who provided instructions and dem-
onstrations, were the same in both assessments.
Data Analysis
Each child performance was rated by three physical educa-
tion instructors, using the videotaped performance of each gross
motor skill, both trials, reviewing the images as many time as
necessary. Prior to the assessment, the raters were trained to
gain competence to rate the gross motor skill following the
TGMD-2 performance criteria (Ulrich, 2000). The rate training
required mastering the performance criteria described in the
TGMD-2 test, rating the children, and finally discussion of the
reasons of any discordance. Assessment was only initiated after
all raters had showed concordance above 85% of the trials,
using a subgroup of children.
Following the TMGD-2 instructions (Ulrich, 2000), each gross
motor skill was assessed using the performance criteria. A value
of 1 or 0 was assigned to the specific performance criteria if the
behavioral component was observed or absent, respectively.
Summing up all the values assigned to the performance criteria
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
for both trials performed by the child a total of 48 points, for each
subtest, locomotor and object control, was possible. This total for
each subtest abilities, following the TGMD-2 instructions (Ulrich,
2000), was considered the raw sc ore for the locomotor and objec t
control subtest separately, and as close to the total possible score
would indicate better performance, according to the performance
criteria, pooling all the gross motor skills of each test.
Based on the raw score, motor age-equivalent was obtained
which indicates the developmental level or age that corresponds
to the raw score obtained by the children. Motor age-equivalent
was obtained for each child in both locomotor and object con-
trol subtest, following normative data (Ulrich, 2000).
Statistical Analysis
After testing the assumptions for normality and homogeneity
of variance, four analyses of variance (ANOVAs) were used to
test possible anthropometric differences between groups at the
moment of the second assessment. The dependent variables, for
each ANOVA, were chronological age, weight, height, and body
mass index. Two MANOVAs were also use d to test gross motor
skill performance between groups and tests, with test factor
treated as repeated measures. The first MANOVA had as de-
pendent variables the raw score and motor age-equivalent for the
locomotor subtest and the second MANOVA the same variables
for the object control subtest. Finally, paired “t” tests were used
to compare chronological age and motor age-equivalent among
the respective group, test, and gross motor skill subtest.
When necessary univariate analyses were employed and α-
level for all analyses was 0.05. All analyses were performed
using the SPSS package (SPSS version 10.0).
Anthropometric Data
Table 1 reveals anthropometric information of all children in
each group at the moment that the second assessment occurred.
ANOVAs showed no group effect for age, F(1,48) = 0.72, p >
0.05, weight, F(1,48) = 0.11, p > 0.05, height, F(1,48) = 0.02, p
> 0.05, and BMI, F(1,48) = 0.23, p > 0.05.
Motor Skill Performance
Figure 1 depicts locomotor subtest raw score and equivalent
motor age for children from both groups and assessments. MA-
NOVA revealed marginal group effect, Wilks’ Lambda = 0.884,
F(2,47) = 3.08, p = 0.055, but test effect, Wilks’ Lambda = 0.749,
F(2,47) = 7.85, p < 0.005, an d group and test interaction, Wilks’
Lambda = 0.861, F(2,47) = 3.79, p < 0.05. Univariate analyses
showed difference between groups for raw score, F(1,48) = 6. 2 6, p
< 0.05, and for the equivalent mot or age, F(1,48) = 5.77, p < 0.05.
Similarly, univariate analyses revealed difference between tests
for raw score, F(1,48) = 10.07, p < 0.005, and for
Table 1.
Mean and stardard deviation of chronological age, weight, height, and
body mass index (BMI) of children with physical education (PE) and
with recreation (RE) activities at the moment of second assessm e n t .
Groups Age
(years) Weight
(Kg) Height
(m) BMI
PE 6.1 (0.4) 21.5 (4.5) 1.16 (0.05) 15.8 (2.1)
RE 6 .2 (0.3) 21.9 (3. 7) 1.16 (0.04) 16.0 (2.1)
equivalent motor age, F(1,48) = 14.43, p < 0.001. Finally, uni-
variate analyses also revealed group and test interaction for raw
score, F(1,48) = 7.73, p < 0.01, and for the equivalent motor
age, F(1,48) = 7.01, p < 0.05. For both variables, while in the
pre-test no difference was observed between groups, in the
post-test, children who were enrolled in PE activities showed
raw score and equivalent motor age higher than those observed
for children enrolled in RE activities.
Figure 2 depicts the object control subtest raw score and
equivalent motor age for children from both groups and assess-
ments. MANOVA revealed no group effect, Wilks’ Lambda =
0.912, F(2,47) = 2.26, p > 0.05, but revealed test effect, Wilks’
Lambda = 0.333, F(2,47) = 47.11, p < 0.001, and group and test
interaction, Wilks’ Lambda = 0.596, F(2,47) = 15.92, p < 0.001.
Univariate analyses revealed difference between tests for raw
score, F(1,48) = 89.80, p < 0.001, and for the equivalent motor
age, F(1,48) = 69.36, p < 0.001. Similarly, univariate analyses
revealed group and test interaction for raw score, F(1,48) =
32.48, p < 0.001, and equivalent motor age, F(1,48) = 29.00, p <
0.001. In general, raw score and equivalent motor age were
higher in the post- than in the pre-test, but the improvement in
both variables was higher for the children enrolled in PE than in
RE activities.
Chronological and Motor Age Comparison
Table 2 depicts chronological age and equivalent motor age
for locomotor and object control subtest of PE and RE children
in the first and second assessments. Paired “t” tests revealed that
in the locomotor subtest, for both pre- and post-test, motor age
equivalent was below the respective chronological age. Differ-
ently, paired “t” tests revealed that in the pre-test object control
age motor equivalent did not differ from the respective chrono-
logical age, for PE and RE children. Finally, in the post-test,
paired “t” did not reveal any difference for RE children, but
revealed that motor age equivalent was ahead of the respective
chronological age for those children enrolled in PE activities.
Raw Score
E quivale nt Motor A ge (yrs)
Pr e
Figure 1.
Mean and standard deviation locomotor subtest raw sco r e
and equivalent motor age for children with physical
education (PE) and with recreation (RE) at the first
(pre) and second (post) assessment.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 19
Raw Score
Equivalent Motor Age (yrs)
Figure 2.
Mean and standard deviation values for the object con-
trol subtest raw score and equivalent motor age for chil-
dren with physical education (PE) and with recreation
(RE) at the first (pre) and second (post) assessment.
Table 2.
Mean and stardard deviation of chronological age and locomotor and
object control age equivalent of children with physical education (PE)
and recreation (RE) at the moment of the first and second assessments.
Chronological Age
Locomotor Age
Object Control Age
PE pre 5.3 (0.3) 4.5 (0.6)* 5.0 (0.7)
RE pre 5.2 (0.4) 4.4 (0.7)* 5.3 (0.7)
PE pos 6.0 (0.3) 5.2 (0.6)* 6.8 (0.8)*
RE pos 5.9 (0.4) 4.5 (0.5)* 5.6 (1.0)
Note: *indicates difference f r om the respective chronological age.
The present study examined the gross motor development of
children enrolled in regular physical education, provided by a
specialist teacher, and children enrolled in recreational activi-
ties, provided by a regular teacher, in kindergarten. Our results
showed that children from both groups prior to enrollment in
the respective activities were delayed comparing the equivalent
motor age to the respective chronological age in the locomotor
motor skills. While at the beginning of the year no difference
was observed in gross motor development, at the end of the
school year, children enrolled in physical education activities,
provided by a specialist, showed better performance than chil-
dren enrolled in recreational activities. Physical education in-
fluence was such that, at the end of the kindergarten year, chil-
dren displayed advanced object control skill development ex-
pected to their age. These results indicated that regular physical
activity, provided by a specialist teacher, influences and pro-
motes better development of gross motor development of chil-
dren even in kindergarten.
Results from this study corroborate previous observations that
Brazilian children are delayed in gross motor development
(Braga, Krebs, Valentini, & Tkac, 2009; Brauner & Valentini,
2009). In this study, children were behind to the expected motor
development in the locomotor skills at both moments that their
skills were tested. Differently than previously observed (Brauner
& Valentini, 2009), in the present study no delay was observed
in the object control skill. A possible explanation for this lack of
delay in object control skills is that by this age, 5- and 6-year-old,
children might not have suffer a notable lack of experience in
performing manipulative tasks. Such a suggestion might be cor-
roborated by observing that children enrolled in recreational
activities, although not statistically significant, already show a
tendency to fall behind in equivalent motor age comparing to the
respective age, at the end of kindergarten.
Delayed performance in gross motor development observed in
this study as well in previous studies (Braga, Krebs, Valentini, &
Tkac, 2009; Brauner & Valentini, 2009) is quite preoccupant
because it might lead to drastic consequences in skill acquisition
in subsequent years. Another aspect that might be pointed out is
that delays in gross motor skills, also using the TGMD-2 proce-
dures and norms, have not been observed in other countries,
such as in Hong Kong (Pang & Fong, 2009). Such results clearly
indicate that besides organism influences, such as maturation,
other aspects definitely play an important role even in the de-
velopment of gross motor skills.
Influence of multiple aspects in motor skill mastering, even of
those named gross motor skills, may also be observed in our
results. A few previous studies have already demonstrated the
importance and the benefits of intervention programs in funda-
mental motor skills in children (Braga, Krebs, Valentini, & Tkac,
2009; Brauner & Valentini, 2009; Lopes, Lopes, & Pereira,
2004). However, such studies showed improvement in motor
skill performance due to specific intervention programs and our
results show the effects due to physical education program in the
regular school curriculum. Such results are important for several
reasons. First, if opportunity of practice and appropriate instruc-
tion are provided at ages in which children are most responsive,
considering the sensitive periods (Bornstein, 1989), mastering of
gross motor skills should be achieved and with better develop-
mental levels. In this case, it has been suggested that gross motor
skills should be refined around the age of 7- and 8-year (Clark,
2007; Gallahue & Donnelly, 2007) and regular physical educa-
tion activities, according to our results, are crucial. Second,
mastering of fundamental motor skills at proper age, due to reg-
ular physical education, children would not be delayed in their
motor development and would not need to be enrolled in spe-
cific programs in order to promote fundamental motor skills,
because regular physical activities at school would already have
provided the proper stimulus and necessary practice to promote
development of such skills to the desirable levels.
Difficulties in efficiently perform fundamental motor skills,
usually observed in children, as showed in several studies (Bo-
nifacci, 2004; Braga, Krebs, Valentini, & Tkac, 2009; Brauner
& Valentini, 2009) might affect the desirable motor develop-
ment improvement. When such effect occur, lack of skillfulness
in performing fundamental motor skills constitute a proficiency
barrier, as suggested (Clark, 2007; Gallahue & Donnelly, 2007;
Seefeldt & Haubenstricker, 1982). Therefore, physical education
activities in regular school and provided by a specialist teacher,
even in kindergarten, might become decisive to promote gross
motor development improvements and grant children possibili-
ties to continue in their motor development course.
Finally, our results corroborate results of a previous study
(Pang & Fong, 2009) in which was observed that children from
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 21
Hong Kong demonstrated better performance of gross motor
skills compared to Brazilian and American children. Pang and
Fang (2009) suggested that these differences might be due to
the school system differences among the places, and children
from Hong Kong would have showed a better gross motor de-
velopment because of regular physical education. In the present
study, which employed a controlled design, direct evidences of
the effects of regular physical education on gross motor skill
proficiency were obtained. Physical education, even in kinder-
garten, improved gross motor performance of children in per-
forming both locomotor and object control skills.
Results from this stud y show ed that gross moto r develo pm ent is
influenced by regular physical education activities, ministered by
a specialist, compared to recreational activities ministered by a
regular classroom teacher in kindergarten. In this way, we sug-
gested that structured practice and appropriate instruction pro-
vided by physical education teac her are crucial in promoting gross
motor development even in young age such as in kindergarten.
We are grateful to the children and to the staff of School
Crispiniano Soares, to FAPESP, grant # 2010/00032-1, and to
Secretaria Estadual de Educação do Estado de São Paulo.
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