Intervention to improve preschool children’s fundamental motor skills: Protocol for a parent-focused, mobile app–based comparative effectiveness trial

E. Kipling Webster, Chelsea L. Kracht, Robert L. Newton, Robbie A. Beyl, Amanda E. Staiano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: Preschool age is an important time to master fundamental motor skills (FMS) through structured physical activity, yet many young children lag behind in motor skill development. Objective: The Promoting Lifelong Activity in Youth (PLAY) study is a pilot comparative effectiveness trial to test the acceptability, feasibility, and preliminary effectiveness of a mobile app delivered to parents to promote FMS development in their preschool children (aged 3-5 years). Methods: We conducted a 2-arm, parallel-design, randomized comparative effectiveness trial in 72 parent-child dyads from the southeastern United States. Experts in motor development and developmental psychology developed an app designed to deliver a 12-week program to parents of preschoolers using 1 of 2 curricula: an FMS program (intervention) that involved peer modeling, parent engagement, and structured skills-based activities and an unstructured physical activity (comparator) curriculum that provided suggestions for child-led physical activity (ie, free play). Primary outcomes are feasibility and acceptability of the app and child’s FMS measured at end of intervention (week 12). Exploratory outcomes are child’s objective physical activity, perceived movement competence, and parent report of self-regulation at the end of treatment (week 12) and sustained outcomes at follow-up (week 24). Results: This project was funded in September 2018, with institutional review board approval in August 2018. Data collection took place from May 2019 through February 2020. To date, the project team has completed data collection on 69 preschool-age children, and results are expected to be published by 2021. Conclusions: The PLAY study examines the feasibility and preliminary effectiveness of a mobile app, parent-led curricula to promote FMS proficiency for preschool children. If found to be effective, the app has the potential for wide-scale dissemination to parents of preschoolers and to provide a model for the utilization of mobile apps to promote young children’s motor skill development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere19943
JournalJMIR Research Protocols
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2020


  • Children
  • Family
  • Motor skills
  • Physical activity
  • Technology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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