Kommunal indsats til fremme af småbørns motoriske udvikling

Research output: ThesisPh.D. thesis

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The thesis titled, Municipal Program to Promote Motor Development in Toddlers, focuses on the importance of early intervention to enhance the motor skills of young children. Research demonstrates that young children with good motor skills thrive better, are more physically active, participate more frequently in sports later in life, and have better cognitive abilities than children with less developed motor skills. Consequently, attention is given to promoting young children's motor development. During the first years of a child's life, their primary caregivers must possess the necessary skills to stimulate their child's motor development. Therefore, it is crucial to concentrate on how primary caregivers – parents and daycare staff - can be empowered in their roles and equipped with the right competencies to promote the motor development of young children. It is vital for these caregivers to be familiar with the recommendations in the field and to possess the necessary skills and opportunities to act accordingly.

With this in mind, Høje-Taastrup Municipality launched the ’Trille & Tumle -Toddlers in Motion’ project to develop caregivers' competencies for childrenunder the age of three. The caregivers included parents of infants (all of whomunderwent a parent-directed program), health visitors (who should implementthe parent-directed program), and daycare staff in nurseries and daycare centers(all of whom underwent a daycare intervention). Consequently, the thesis,Municipal Program to Promote Motor Development in Toddlers, aims toinvestigate the implementation and effects of this municipal program to promoteyoung children's motor development. This is achieved partly by examining howthe caregivers perceived the implementation, partly by examining the effects ofthe intervention on parents’ and day care staff’s competencies in promotingyoung children's motor development, partly by studying the effect of the parentdirected program on infant motor development and partly studying the effect ofthe daycare intervention effect the daycare centers' physical environment andorganization in order to promote young children's motor development.

The thesis is based on a systematic literature search in the field, presented in Article A. The research in the field indicates that interventions conducted by young children's caregivers promote children's motor skills and increase caregivers' interest and motivation in supporting young children's motor development. Subsequently, five research questions related to the municipal program ’Trille & Tumle - Toddlers in Motion’ were formulated, each contributing to the purpose of the thesis.

The first research question focuses on the facilitating factors and barriers experienced by health visitors in implementing the intervention (parent-directedprogram) for socially vulnerable families and how these factors are manifested. This is addressed in Article B of the thesis, which explicitly addresses parents invulnerable positions, as there is a need for further understanding of health visitors' experiences when involving these parents in co-producing their infants' motor development. The results show that "insufficient time" is a barrier for implementation, as general family needs during the home visits take up much of the time, leaving little time to implement the parent-directed program. On the other hand, the provided materials (a bag with motor-stimulating toys and videos demonstrating activities and motor exercises with the child) are considered a facilitating factor for implementation, increasing parents' interest and motivation.

The second research question examines the impact of the parent-directedprogram on parents' competencies in promoting their infants' motordevelopment and the elements parents perceive as essential for strengtheningtheir competencies. The results of this investigation can be found in Article C ofthe thesis. This research question was examined through questionnairescompleted by parents before and after implementing the parent-directedprogram, focusing on their current actions and competencies. Additionally,interviews were conducted with the parents. The results show that the parentdirected program positively impacts parents' competencies in working with theirinfants' motor development. The parents consider the program to be valuable,and they particularly appreciated the provided materials and the related dialogue,strengthening their focus on the importance of early motor stimulation in theirchildren. Furthermore, the results indicate that parents have confidence in theirhealth visitor, which is crucial for collaboration and for parents to accept and actupon the health visitors' recommendations.

The third research question investigates how the parent-directed programinfluenced infants' motor development when the child was 9-11 months old. Thiswas examined by comparing infants' motor development in the interventionmunicipality (Høje-Taastrup Municipality) with infants in a control municipalitywhere parents did not receive the parent-directed program. This information canbe found in Article D of the thesis. Infants' motor development data werecollected from the health visitors' electronic journal system, NOVAX, whereinformation about the child's motor development at 9-11 months is recorded. Theresults show no effect of the parent-directed program on infants' motordevelopment (OR = 0.8, p = 0.53). 

The fourth research question explores how the daycare intervention influencedthe staff’s competencies in promoting young children's motor development, aswell as the elements perceived by the educators as facilitating and barrier factorsfor the implementation. This information can be found in Article E of the thesis.The investigation was carried out through questionnaires to the staff before andafter the intervention, focusing on their current actions and competencies.Additionally, interviews were conducted with the staff. The results of this studyshow that a significant proportion of nursery and daycare staff improved theircompetencies in working with young children's motor development. The staff nowimplement motor-promoting activities more frequently and have become betterat identifying children with motor difficulties. The analysis also reveals severalfactors that contribute to the implementation of the intervention. These includethe intervention taking place in the institutions; its ease of implementation intheir daily life; its adjustable nature, and its applicability in planned as well asspontaneous activities. Furthermore, the availability of materials that can be usedto promote children's motor skills plays a positive role in doing activities.However, there are also barriers to implementation, such as staff turnover, newprojects diverting attention from the intervention, lack of interest among someemployees, and a perceived lack of prioritization from the management in thedaycare centers.

Finally, the fifth research question investigates how the daycare interventionaffected the daycare centers' physical environment and organization in order to promote young children's motor development. This was examined throughquestionnaires and interviews with the management. The results of thisinvestigation can be found in Article F of the thesis. The results show that thedaycare intervention led to four significant changes in the centers. Firstly, therehas been an increased focus on motor development in the daycare centers.Secondly, there has been a change in their daily organization, providing betteropportunities for children's physical activities. Thirdly, the intervention hasaffected the daycare centers' guidelines related to motor development andphysical activities. Lastly, there have been changes in the daycare centers' physicalenvironments, providing children with better opportunities for motor activities.

Overall, the results show that the municipality has initiated a program that hascreated favourable conditions for learning and developing competencies by thecaregivers. A significant factor has been providing education to the parents andeducators in their everyday surroundings, which caregivers found valuable. Theprovided materials have also positively impacted caregivers' motivation andinterest in promoting young children's motor development as well as prompted achange in behaviour, in line with previous research in the field. However, noconclusive evidence exists of the parent-directed program's demonstrable effecton infant motor development. This lack of effect could be attributed to variousfactors, such as the test not being precise enough to detect an effect or theintervention itself not being sufficient.

Throughout the thesis, various aspects of a municipal intervention promotingyoung children's motor development have been investigated. The resultsemphasize the importance of prioritizing early intervention and strengtheningcaregivers' skills, as this changes their actions to work with young children's motordevelopment. 
Original languageDanish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Southern Denmark
  • Ibsen, Bjarne, Principal supervisor
  • Hestbæk, Lise, Co-supervisor
Date of defence11. Dec 2023
Publication statusPublished - 13. Nov 2023

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