A window of opportunity? Motor skills and perceptions of competence of children in Kindergarten
1 School of Exercise Science, Physical and Health Education, University of Victoria, Victoria, Canada
2 School Age Program, Queen Alexandra Centre for Children's Health, Victoria, Canada
International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2012, 9:29 doi:10.1186/1479-5868-9-29Published: 15 March 2012
Our aim was to examine the relationship between motor skill proficiency and perceptions of competence of children in their first year of school. We also explored gender-based differences.
Participants were 260 kindergarten children (mean age = 5y 9 m; boys = 52%) from eight schools; representing 78% of eligible children in those schools. Motor skills were measured using the Test of Gross Motor Development-2 and perceptions of physical competence were assessed using the Pictorial Scale of Perceived Competence and Social Acceptance for Young Children. Motor skill scores were generally low (percentile ranks ranged from 16 - 24) but perceptions of physical competence were positive (boys = 18.1/24.0, girls = 19.5/24.0). A MANOVA showed a significant overall effect for gender (Wilk's lambda = .84 with F (3, 254) = 15.84, p < 0.001) and univariate F tests were significant for all outcome variables. The relationship between object control skills and perceptions of physical competence among girls was not significant; however all other correlations were modest but significant.
Although motor skill levels were quite low, the children generally held positive perceptions of their physical competence. These positive perceptions provide a window of opportunity for fostering skillfulness. The modest relationships between perceptions of competence and motor skill proficiency suggest that the children are beginning to make self-judgments at a young age. Accordingly, opportunities for children to become and feel physically competent need to occur early in their school or preschool life.