At Jumping Beans our classes are not only based on over 30 years of practical experience, they are constantly being updated and adapted according to the latest research. This research shows the huge benefit Jumping Beans has on children’s early learning.

Jumping Beans won an international award from OMEP, a United Nations linked organisation, for a collaborative research study (PEECh) with BestStart Education and Care Centres, Massey and Waikato Universities. The study showed that after 10 weeks of weekly Jumping Beans sessions, the motor skills of 3 and 4-year olds improved by approximately 2 age equivalent years. The study received Natonwide coverage.

Changes in Fundamental Movement Skills can Happen Relatively Quickly, and are Maintained

The Physical Education in Early Childhood (PEECh) study involved Jumping Beans instructors delivering 1 x 45-minute physical activity classes over a 10-week period to 3 and 4 year-old children across four BestStart ECE centres. These sessions involved active participation by ECE teachers who underwent experiential learning themselves. Teachers ‘strongly agreed’ that the Jumping Beans intervention was beneficial PLD, beneficial for the children and that they saw benefit in future Jumping Beans classes for their centres. Teachers gained important knowledge, skill and confidence in promoting physical activity in young children. Locomotor FMS activities (e.g. running, jumping, hopping) improved by approx. 2 age-equivalent years (relative to control group). Object control FMS activities (e.g. ball-handling skills) improved by approx. 1.2 age-equivalent years (relative to control). After a 3-month follow-up period the FMS skills were maintained in the children.

Take-home message: Changes in fundamental movement skills happen relatively quickly and help enhance the knowledge and skill-set of teachers, thus maintaining these improvements over time. READ MORE

Jumping Beans Classes Offer A Ground-breaking, Evidence Based Programme To Teach Infants Vital Safety Skills

A study with Massey University in 2013 set out to investigate the effects of a nine-week, child-centred physical activity programme on cognitive and motor skill development, safety skills, balance and parent supervision in typically developing 12-24 month-old children. In a randomised, controlled design, 90 toddlers (age 17.0 ± 2.6 months; 52.2% male) and their parents were split into two treatment groups stratified by age and gender at baseline. The intervention completed was either nine weeks (one school term) of one-hour child-centred physical activity classes or normal physical activity for nine weeks. In the school holiday periods prior to, and following the intervention period anthropometric measures (mass and height), overall development (Bayley Scales of Infant Development – Screening Test), safety skills (nine-skill test battery), balance measures (centre of pressure) and parent-child supervision were assessed. The results showed that the nine-week physical activity intervention was successful in improving the overall safety skills score (p < 0.05). In addition, the ability to climb over a small-runged A-frame while using a cylinder grip and safe face-the-slope dismount and the execution of a safety roll down a foam wedge were improved as the result of the intervention (p < 0.05). There was no effect of the exercise intervention on overall development, measures of balance or supervision aspects. A main effect of Age Group on the mean change score in all subscales was reported with younger children (12-18 months) tending to show greater improvements as compared to older children (18-24 months). Regression analysis showed that 27.8% of the change in overall development could be predicted by knowing the age of the child and whether their day-to-day environment was mostly home care with their parent or other adult, or not.
This was the first randomised, controlled trial that examined the effects of a child-centred physical activity programme on overall development, safety skills, balance and supervision in 12-24 month-old children in New Zealand. There is a need for more randomised, controlled trials that incorporate a multitude of external factors that may influence development, namely cognitive and motor skill development. Keywords: motor skill development, cognitive development, toddlers, physical activity, balance.

Take Home Message: One year olds, participating in weekly Jumping Beans classes over a 9-week term, significantly improved their safety skills such as safe climbing, safety rolls and safety grips. READ MORE

Importance of Fundamental Movement Skills

Development of fundamental movement skills (FMS) in early childhood may influence the maintenance of a healthy lifestyle throughout a person’s life. In contrast, research by Bouffard et al (1996) shows that children with low FMS abilities display low physical activity levels, tend to be vigorously active less often, play less on large playground equipment and spend less time interacting socially with their peers. Therefore, FMS are the essential building blocks for the acquisition of more refined and complicated skills that can be applied later in life, such as sporting, recreational and physical activity pursuits.

Take-home message: Targeting improved motor skills in the preschool years may lead to greater participation in physical activity, sports, and organised activities and the associated health benefits of these activities.

Importance of Structured Physical Activity

An Australian research group (Finch et al, 2012) suggest the following practices will help enhance physical activity of children within ECE centres:

  1. Written policy for physical activity
  2. Focus on fundamental movement skills within physical activity policy
  3. Staff trained on FMS and physical activity
  4. Regular, structured teacher-led activity during which children explore and practice FMS
  5. Written policy on screen time use

Take-home message: ECE centres should have policies in place to allow regular teacher-led physical activity classes with a focus on fundamental movement skills

Physical Activity Improves Early Literacy

A recent study investigated the effects of increased physical activity in preschool African-American children (low socioeconomic group) on early literacy skills (Kirk and Kirk 2016). The children received 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity sessions (300 minutes per week) over an 8-month period. After 8 months of physical activity sessions, rhyming ability increased by 173% (28% in control group) and alliteration improved by 52% (13% in control). Furthermore, the more physical activity the children did, the better their rhyming, picture naming and alliteration abilities improved.

Take-home message: A teacher-directed physical activity programme is effective in increasing physical activity and improving early literacy in preschool children.

Promoting Behaviour Change in Young Children

Goldfield et al (2002) suggest that the advantage of targeting improvements in physical activity behaviours within ECE centres is that altering health behaviours in young children is much easier than in older children, adolescents, or adults. This is because young children’s health behaviour is more malleable as they have either not yet adopted an unhealthy lifestyle or have not been unhealthy for a long period of time. Moreover, it is easier to promote physical activity in young children because they are completely responsive to environmental control of activity within day-cares.

Take-home message: ECE teachers have an important role for promoting physical activity in pre-schoolers

Kicking Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity has been linked with poor academic ability, physical and mental illness, reduced self-esteem and greatly increases the likelihood of becoming obese as an adult. In this article Dr. Ajmol Ali, School of Sport and Exercise, College of Health, Massey University, focuses on ways that children can increase physical activity and energy expenditure to help reduce this problem.

Take-home message: Physical literacy needs to reach equal status with core academic disciplines if New Zealand children are to become healthier and less obese. Therefore, toddlers and pre-schoolers require physical activity classes, from trained staff using specialised equipment.