Better coordinated children more likely to succeed at school

Children with good eye-to-hand co-ordination are more likely to do better at school and achieve higher scores for reading, writing and math, according to a new study done by researchers from the University of Leeds. The study indicates that schools should be providing extra support to children who are not quite coordinated.

About 300 children aged 4-11 participated in various computer tasks to see evaluate their co-ordination and interceptive timing- which is the ability to interact with a moving object. The study was published recently in the journal Psychological Science.

The tasks were designed specifically to assess eye-to-hand coordination and included steering, taking aim and tracking objects on a computer screen. When the ‘interceptive timing’ task came up, children had to hit a moving object with an on-screen bat on a computer screen.

After seeing the controls for age, the results indicated that children who performed better eye-to-hand co-ordination tasks achieved good academic results in reading, writing and math and those who performed best at the ‘steering task’- did exceptionally better. According to the team, they were, on an average, nine months ahead of their peers who struggled with the task.

The team also saw that while interceptive timing of the children could predict their mathematical ability, it did not have any significant effect on their reading and writing abilities.

The team notes that this study was observational and identified “stastically significant associations” between how well children could process what’s happening around them and their educational achievements- It does not reflect a direct cause and effect.

Mark Mon-Williams, who supervised the research and also the professor of Cognitive Psychology at the University of Leeds said, “The results show that eye-to-hand co-ordination and interceptive timing are robust predictors of how well young children will perform at school.”

“The current thinking among psychologists is that the neural circuitry used to build up a child’s understanding of their external environment, the way they orientate themselves spatially and understand their world is also used to process numbers and more abstract thinking”, continued Mon-Williams. “It also raises the question: should schools be identifying those children who are seen as clumsy or not so well coordinated and giving them extra support?”

The study was done at the Lilycroft Primary School in Bradford, West Yorkshire. Headteacher Nicola Roth has started applying the findings of the research in her classrooms. The school has already redesigned its reception and indoor and outdoor areas- where special areas can be included so that children can develop their motor skills and coordination.

“As a school we decided to harness the research findings. We have decided that our pupils should be encouraged to develop motor skill and eye to hand co-ordination throughout their time at the school”, said Roth.

“Playing with construction equipment toys used to stop when children reached the ages of five or six but we have decided to continue with that until they are nine years old. This is one of the ways we have implemented the findings, it is a simple step that can have significant benefits for the children’s wider education.”

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