“Welcome to the Fundamental Movement Skills (FMS) series. Over the next three weeks, I’m going to tell you why FMS are so important and how you can help your children learn them with easy-to-follow exercises at home.

FMS include movements like throwing, catching, running, hopping and skipping. They may seem elementary but studies, both in Ireland and abroad, show that most children and adolescents are not performing them confidently or competently, and it’s affecting their participation in sports later in life.

If you are confident and competent with these skills then you are more

likely to be engaged in sport and physical activity, yet children aren’t born

with these skills so they have to be taught. And if parents don’t know what FMS are,

then how can they teach their children?

Take running, for example. It’s important to get that contra-lateral movement, which is when we move opposite sides of the body. Most children run by moving the same arm and the same leg at the same time.

There are many reasons why today’s children and adolescents have a low proficiency of FMS. For the most part, freedom of movement is restricted.

Whereas previous generations were out discovering their range of movement by climbing trees, parents today are much more protective of their children. Some schools don’t allow schoolchildren to run while they’re in the yard; some parents don’t allow their toddlers to crawl on certain surfaces because they’re frightened of bacteria.

Children today also have increased sedentary time and screen time, and are more likely to be looking at an iPad than moving around.

Over the next three weeks, I’m going to look at the three categories of

FMS — manipulative, locomotor and balance — and I’m going to suggest exercises for every age group.

These can be incorporated as part of children’s playtime, but they don’t need to be done outside. In fact, you don’t even need a pair of runners — you can do them barefoot if you like. Some of the exercises for younger children can be done in the bath.

When parents understand FMS, they can be taught, practiced and promoted at home.

Next week we’ll be looking at Manipulative movement skills — throwing, catching, striking with the feet and hands and striking with an implement.

This article appeared on Independent.ie