Appropriate motor skills are essential for all children. Children with poor motor skills participate less in physical activity than other children and this has been linked to health problems such as obesity and cardio vascular problems. Children with poor motor skills also see themselves as less competent both athletically and academically and this can lead to feelings of low self worth.
The Animal Fun concept was originated by Emeritus Professor Jan Piek in response to a request from teachers who were looking for an effective program to improve motor skills and social skills in very young children. Animal Fun was further developed by an inter-disciplinary team of psychologists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists from Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia.
Animal Fun: A movement program at pre – primary level to promote physical and mental health (Pilot Study) 2006-2007
Funded by a Healthway Starter Grant – this pilot study allowed Animal Fun to be developed and implemented in 3 schools in metropolitan and regional Western Australia as an initial pilot study. Results of analysis showed significant improvement in children’s social skills. Feedback from teachers was very positive, reporting that children loved the program and were happy participants.
Animal Fun: A movement program to promote physical and mental health in young children 2009-2011.
A Healthway funded 3 year randomised controlled trial to test the efficacy of Animal Fun across 12 pre-primary schools in metropolitan and regional Western Australia. Analysis of the research data showed that children who participated in the Animal Fun program showed significant improvement in motor skills and in their social skills together with a significant decrease in inattentive and hyperactive behaviours when compared to children in the control schools.
Development of Animal Fun Resources
As a result of positive findings from the previous research, The Mental Health Commission of Western Australia funded the further development of Animal Fun into a set of useful resources for Pre-primary schools, kindergartens, child care centres and for allied health professionals working with young children and families.
Piek, Jan P., Kane, Robert., Rigoli, Daniela., McLaren, Sue., Roberts, Clare M., Rooney, Rosanna., Jensen, Lynn., Dender, Alma., Packer, Tanya., Straker, Leon. Does the Animal Fun program improve social-emotional and behavioural outcomes in children aged 4-6 years? Human Movement Science, 2015, (43): 155-163. PDF [824KB]
Piek JP, McLaren S, Kane R, Jensen L, Dender A, Roberts C, Rooney R, Packer T, Straker L Does the Animal Fun program improve motor performance in children aged 4–6 years? Hum Mov Sci. 2013;32(5):1086-1096. PDF [557 KB]
Piek, J.P., Straker, L. M., Jensen, L., Dender, A., Barrett, N.P., McLaren, S., Roberts, C., Reid, C., Rooney, R., Packer, T., Bradbury, G., Elsley, S. (2010). Rationale, design and methods for a randomised and controlled trial to evaluate “Animal Fun” – a program designed to enhance physical and mental health in young children. BMC Pediatrics 2010, 10:78