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Bite-Sized Brain Food: Fundamental Movement Skills

What are fundamental movement skills?

When children are growing up, they learn how to move their bodies in different ways. We call these basic movements fundamental movement skills (FMS). These movements are widely referred to in the literature as the ‘building blocks’ that enable children to participate in physical activity. FMS are divided into locomotor (running, skipping), object control (throwing, catching), and stability skills (balancing, twisting) and are crucial for a child’s development as they form the foundation for more complex movements. If children don’t acquire these skills during their formative years, it can make it harder for them to engage in physical activity as they get older.

The research suggests that children who perceive themselves as competent movers tend to have higher self-esteem and motivation to take on challenging tasks, resulting in more active participation in physical activities. When children feel like they're good at moving and understand why it's important, they're more likely to stay active… and the evidence tells us when they stay active, they're healthier and happier overall. Just like with any type of learning, children will progress in developing these skills at varying speeds. As children get better at these movements, they can start doing more complex activities.


What can we do to help develop fundamental movement skills?

Eventually, fundamental movement skills become context-specific movements. This is when children will start to use their skills in specific situations like playing rounders or practicing a dance routine. As children develop, researchers suggest that a wide range of physical activities should be available to children. Particularly activities that involve whole-body movements, which encourage the child to move through different planes of movement and recruit large muscles groups in order to allow for movement skills to be learned, developed and transferred.

When children are of primary-school age, their brains are developing quickly which means they typically find it easier to develop these sort of movement skills. That means primary schools have an important role to play in nurturing FMS. New skills can be practiced and developed during PE lessons, but also in lunchtime or afterschool clubs. Offering a diverse range of physical activities that cater to different interests, abilities, and needs of all children helps to ensure that every child has the opportunity to participate and develop their FMS regardless of their experience or ability. FMS development can be integrated into other areas of the curriculum too, whether that’s through a physically activity lesson or a physical activity break at the end of a lesson.

What about physical literacy?


When thinking about FMS, it’s important to think about a child’s physical literacy. Physical literacy is our relationship with movement and physical activity throughout life. Having a positive and meaningful relationship with movement and physical activity makes us more likely to be and stay active, benefiting our health, wellbeing and quality of life. Research shows that children with high levels of physical literacy are twice as likely to engage in sport and physical activity, which means ensuring we develop FMS is a positive, safe and supportive environment is key to developing active children who go on to become active adults.


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