Rationale, design and methods for a randomised and controlled trial to evaluate "Animal Fun" - a program designed to enhance physical and mental health in young children
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Background: Children with poor motor ability have been found to engage less in physical activities than other children, and a lack of physical activity has been linked to problems such as obesity, lowered bone mineral density and cardiovascular risk factors. Furthermore, if children are confident with their fine and gross motor skills, they are more likely to engage in physical activities such as sports, crafts, dancing and other physical activity programs outside of the school curriculum which are important activities for psychosocial development. The primary objective of this project is to comprehensively evaluate a whole of class physical activity program called Animal Fun designed for Pre-Primary children. This program was designed to improve the child's movement skills, both fine and gross, and their perceptions of their movement ability, promote appropriate social skills and improve social-emotional development. Methods: The proposed randomized and controlled trial uses a multivariate nested cohort design to examine the physical (motor coordination) and psychosocial (self perceptions, anxiety, social competence) outcomes of the program. The Animal Fun program is a teacher delivered universal program incorporating animal actions to facilitate motor skill and social skill acquisition and practice. Pre-intervention scores on motor and psychosocial variables for six control schools and six intervention schools will be compared with post-intervention scores (end of Pre-Primary year) and scores taken 12 months later after the children's transition to primary school Year 1. 520 children aged 4.5 to 6 years will be recruited and it is anticipated that 360 children will be retained to the 1 year follow-up. There will be equal numbers of boys and girls.Discussion: If this program is found to improve the child's motor and psychosocial skills, this will assist in the child's transition into the first year of school. As a result of these changes, it is anticipated that children will have greater enjoyment participating in physical activities which will further promote long term physical and mental health.
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