Researchers at Deakin University (Melbourne, Australia) have come to the conclusion that pre-school aged children who play interactive video games (such as those found on the Wii) have better motor skills than those children who do not regularly play interactive games. Deakin University researchers and a researcher form the University of Wollongong conducted a pilot study in 2009 of 53 pre-schoolers ages three to six years old (31 girls, 22 boys) to determine if there was some sort of association between playing games and the fundamental movement skills of children.
The participants were selected from the Healthy Active Preschool Years (HAPPY) study. Right around 35 percent of the children played non-interactive electronic games, 23 percent played interactive games exclusively, and six of the children played both interactive and non-interactive games. Children spent an average of 183 minutes (or 3.05 hours) per week playing non-interactive games and 118 minutes (1.97 hours) playing interactive games. Factoring in all of the "possible influences on a child’s object control skill level," 12 percent of it was associated with their time playing interactive games. The physical activity levels of the children and movement skills were monitored at home by parents, who then provided reports to researchers. In addition to using the Wii, some participants played games on portable devices such as the DS.
The results of the study showed that object control motor skills - which includes kicking, catching, and throwing a ball - were much more improved in test subjects than who played interactive games. Researchers did not find a connection between locomotor skill ability and playing either interactive or non-interactive games.
"This study was not designed to assess whether interactive gaming can actually develop children’s movement skills, but the results are still quite interesting and point to a need to further explore a possible connection," said Dr. Lisa Barnett, the lead researcher and a NHMRC postdoctoral researcher with Deakin’s School of Health and Social Development.
"While we found that greater time spent playing interactive electronic games is associated with higher object control skills in these young children, we cannot say why," Dr. Barnett continued. "It could be that these children have higher object control skills because they are playing interactive games that may help to develop these types of skills (for example, the under hand roll through playing the bowling game on the Wii). Playing interactive electronic games may also help eye-hand coordination."
One possible theory is that children who already have higher object control skills have a tendency to play interactive electronic games more. Ultimately researchers think that more studies are needed to find more facts. Ultimately Dr. Barnett thinks that if gaming can improve object control skills in children, it could be used to foster active behavior in adolescents and keep them from becoming overweight. Previous research from Dr. Barnett showed that children with better fundamental movement skills tend to be physically active and fit.
The results of the study have been published in the journal Perceptual and Motor Skills.
Source: Medical Express