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Associations between gross motor skills and cognitive development in toddlers

Sanne L C Veldman, Rute Santos, Rachel A Jones, Eduarda Sousa-Sá, Anthony D Okely
Early Human Development 2019 April 6, 132: 39-44

BACKGROUND: The early years of life are critical for motor and cognitive development. A better understanding is needed on the associations between the control and development of motor and cognitive tasks.

AIM: This study aimed to examine the association between gross motor skills and cognitive development in toddlers.

STUDY DESIGN: Cross-sectional study.

SUBJECTS: This study included 335 toddlers (aged 19.80 ± 4.08 months, 53.7% boys) from 30 childcare services in Australia.

OUTCOME MEASURES: Children were assessed on gross motor skills (Peabody Developmental Motor Scales 2nd Edition; PDMS-2) and cognitive development (Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler development 3rd edition; Bayley-III).

DATA ANALYSIS: A one-way ANCOVA was conducted to assess associations between gross motor skills and cognitive development controlling for childcare center, sex, age, body mass index and socioeconomic status.

RESULTS: The average scores were 96.41 ± 9.84 for gross motor skills (range gross motor quotient 35-165) and 11.45 ± 3.03 for cognitive development (range standard score 1-19). There was a significant positive association between gross motor skills and cognition, F(2,260)  = 12.245, p < 0.001. Both locomotion and object manipulation were significantly positively associated with cognition, F(2,266)  = 14.607, p < 0.001 and F(2,265)  = 9.039, p < 0.001 respectively.

CONCLUSIONS: Levels of gross motor skills are positively associated with cognitive development in this sample of Australian toddlers. Results reinforce the need for early commencement of gross motor skill promotion as this might be important for cognitive development in the early years.


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