A recent study conducted by the University of Surrey and Birkbeck, University of London, suggests that fine motor skills in young children, such as drawing, folding paper, and block building, are associated with improved GCSE scores and reduced behavioral issues during childhood and adolescence. The authors propose that preschool fine motor skills may play a significant role in bridging the gap between early infancy and later educational and behavioral achievements in primary and secondary school.
The research demonstrated a correlation between fine motor skills and improved GCSE grades at the age of 16. Children with lower fine motor skills during their preschool years exhibited more behavioral problems and ADHD symptoms throughout primary and secondary school. Importantly, these associations persisted even after adjusting for socioeconomic factors, such as parental qualifications and employment status.
Professor Angelica Ronald from the University of Surrey, the senior researcher of the study, remarked: “Activities that promote fine motor skill development, like block building and drawing, may be viewed merely as ‘play’ by parents, caregivers, and educators. However, our findings indicate that fine motor skill development plays a crucial role in shaping future educational achievements and behavior. While parents often receive free books for their young children, policymakers should also consider providing blocks or drawing materials as complementary resources.”
The research included more than 9,000 preschool-aged children who participated in activities such as drawing, folding paper, and stacking blocks. These activities involve precise manipulation of objects by hand and are categorized as ‘fine motor skills’. Evaluations of the children’s fine motor skills were conducted at ages 2, 3, and 4 to gauge their development during the preschool years.
Subsequently, the children were tracked throughout their childhood and adolescence as part of a longitudinal study known as the Twins Early Development Study. Their GCSE outcomes at the age of 16 were documented, along with their behavior during childhood and adolescence, including characteristics associated with ADHD.
As an additional aspect, the researchers utilized polygenic scores to assess genetic predispositions for educational attainment and behavior. Polygenic scores provide an estimate of the cumulative genetic predisposition for specific traits. Their findings indicated that individuals with a genetic predisposition for prolonged education tended to exhibit superior early fine motor skills. Conversely, those with a genetic predisposition for ADHD tended to encounter more difficulties with preschool fine motor skills.