This study examined the effects and specificity of structured and unstructured activities played at the playground Primo Sport 0246 in Northern Italy on motor skill competence in five years old children. The playground was specifically designed to promote gross motor skills in preschool children; in this study 71 children from local kindergartens came to the park once a week for ten consecutive weeks and were exposed to 30 minutes of free play and 30 minutes of structured activities. Before and after the ten visits, each child completed nine tests to assess levels of motor skills, three for fine-motor skills and six for gross-motor skills. As control, motor skills were also assessed on 39 children from different kindergartens who did not come to the park. The results show that the experimental group who practiced gross-motor activities in the playground for 1 hour a week for 10 weeks improved significantly in 4 out of the 6 gross motor tasks and in none of the fine motor tasks. The data indicate that limited transfer occurred between tasks referring to different domains of motor competences while suggesting cross feeding for improvement of gross-motor skills between different exercises when domains related to physical fitness and strength of specific muscle groups are involved. These results are relevant to the issue of condition(s) appropriate for maintaining and developing motor skills in this age group as well as for the planning, organization and implementation of play and physical activities in kindergartens.
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We thank: Associazione Laboratorio 0246 and Verdesport for local organization, continuous help and support during the study; Assessorato e Scuole Treviso and CONI-Treviso for participation to the study and helpful discussions. We are grateful to Professor Cristiano Chiamulera, University of Verona, for critically reading the manuscript and help with the statistical analysis. The following well trained educators for their help and useful suggestions during the study: Arianna Fedato, Laura Mattei, Giovanni Conte, Maurizio Ballò, Sabrina Novello, Giorgia Spi-golon, Veronica Reato, Martina Lorenzon, Giovanna Lamon, Claudia Fiori, Fiorenza Miner-vini, Michela Dall’Osta, Marina Gebhard, Riccardo Baggio, Diego Zuccher, Paola Bresolin, Paola Pedron. This research was supported by Comitato Olimpico Nazionale Italiano CONI-Treviso and Associazione Laboratorio 0246, Treviso, Italy
Funding: The authors received no specific funding for this work. PT is supported by an institutional fellowship of the University of Verona. The non-profit Association Laboratorio 0246, Treviso, Italy, has provided free use of the playground and has offered at no cost secretarial organization. The Comitato
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