2006 Volume 4 Pages 49-56
Great public concern has arisen recently from the results of annual nationwide surveys carried out by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, which have shown that school children's motor ability have been declining. It is important to determine the age at which the decline of physical fitness and motor ability starts, so that we can find the cause and improve the situation. However, changes in preschool children's motor ability development has not been studied so far. Thus, this research intends to make clear chronological changes in preschool children's motor ability development by analyzing data from forty years of nationwide surveys made by the author, et al., in 1966, 1973, 1986, 1997 and 2002. The result of the analysis is as follows: the motor ability of preschool children improved from 1966 to 1973, stayed unchanged from 1973 to 1986 and declined significantly from 1986 to 1997. This result shows similarities to the results in the surveys of school-age children. The cause of the decline was considered from the point of view of physical activity experience and environmental factors. There are no significant differences in the constitution of preschool children from 1986 to 1997. Thus, constitution seems not to be the cause of the decline. Further research made clear that time spent playing outdoors had decreased sharply over almost the same period as the decline in motor ability. This suggests that the decrease in physical activity experience through outdoor play may be the cause of decline. To further support our theory, the same research also reports a decrease in the number of playmates and places for outdoor play, which are the essential environmental factors that determine how much a child plays outdoors.