Associations of motor abilities with biological, sociodemographic, and behavioural factors in children: results from the ToyBox study



In this cross-sectional study, we examined the association of selected basic motor abilities with biological (sex, age, and BMI), sociodemographic [socio-economic status (SES), migration status], and behavioural factors (membership of sport club) in children aged 3–6 years.


We performed two motor tests, jumping from side to side (JSS) and standing long jump (SLJ) along with the anthropometric measurements in 1598 children (age 4.6 ± 0.70 years; 51% boys) from 58 kindergartens in Germany. GEE models were applied to examine cross-sectional associations between motor abilities and biological, sociodemographic, and behavioural factors.


Age was significant positively related to both tests, JSS (p < 0.001) and SLJ (p < 0.001). Boys reached significantly better results in SLJ (p < 0.001) but not in JSS. Children being member of a sport club performed better than those who were not (SLJ: p < 0.001, JSS: p < 0.001). BMI was inversely related to SLJ (p = 0.014) and tended to be inversely related to JSS (p = 0.64). No significant associations of migration background or SES with motor abilities were found.


When designing effective promotion and teaching strategies targeting children’s motor abilities, information on age and gender differences should be taken into account. Preschool children may benefit from being member in sport clubs. Lower scores of motor abilities in children with higher BMI underline the importance to act early in childhood for prevention.

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Body mass index


Socio-economic status


Jumping from side to side


Standing long jump


Physical activity


Standard deviation


Generalized estimating equation model


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The ToyBox study has been funded by the Seventh Framework Programme (CORDIS FP7) of the European Commission under Grant agreement no. 245200. The content of this article reflects only the authors’ views and the European Community is not liable for any use that may be made of the information contained therein. The ToyBox study group consist of: Co-ordinator: Yannis Manios. Steering Committee: Yannis Manios, Berthold Koletzko, Ilse De Bourdeaudhuij, Mai Chin A Paw, Luis Moreno, Carolyn Summerbell, Tim Lobstein, Lieven Annemans, Goof Buijs. External Advisors: John Reilly, Boyd Swinburn, Dianne Ward. Harokopio University (Greece): Yannis Manios, Odysseas Androutsos, Eva Grammatikaki, Christina Katsarou, Eftychia Apostolidou, Eirini Efstathopoulou. LMU-Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (Germany): Berthold Koletzko, Kristin Duvinage, Sabine Ibrügger, Angelika Strauß, Birgit Herbert, Julia Birnbaum, Annette Payr, Christine Geyer. Ghent University (Belgium): Department of Movement and Sports Sciences: Ilse De Bourdeaudhuij, Greet Cardon, Marieke De Craemer, Ellen De Decker. Department of Public Health: Lieven Annemans, Stefaan De Henauw, Lea Maes, Carine Vereecken, Jo Van Assche, Lore Pil. VU University Medical Center EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research (The Netherlands): EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research: Mai Chin A Paw, Saskia te Velde. University of Zaragoza (Spain): Luis Moreno, Theodora Mouratidou, Juan Fernandez, Maribel Mesana, Pilar De Miguel-Etayo, Esther M. González-Gil, Luis Gracia-Marco, Beatriz Oves. Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences (Norway): Agneta Yngve, Susanna Kugelberg, Christel Lynch, Annhild Mosdøl, Bente Nilsen. University of Durham (UK): Carolyn Summerbell, Helen Moore, Wayne Douthwaite, Catherine Nixon. State Institute of Early Childhood Research (Germany): Susanne Kreichauf, Andreas Wildgruber. Children’s Memorial Health Institute (Poland): Piotr Socha, Zbigniew Kulaga, Kamila Zych, Magdalena Góźdź, Beata Gurzkowska, Katarzyna Szott. Medical University of Varna (Bulgaria): Violeta Iotova, Mina Lateva, Natalya Usheva, Sonya Galcheva, Vanya Marinova, Zhaneta Radkova, Nevyana Feschieva. World Obesity Federation (UK): Tim Lobstein. CBO B.V. (The Netherlands): Goof Buijs, Annemiek Dorgelo, Aviva Nethe, Jan Jansen. AOK-Verlag (Germany): Otto Gmeiner, Jutta Retterath, Julia Wildeis, Axel Günthersberger. Roehampton University (UK): Leigh Gibson. University of Luxembourg (Luxembourg): Claus Voegele.

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Correspondence to Julia Birnbaum.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Birnbaum, J., Geyer, C., Kirchberg, F.F. et al. Associations of motor abilities with biological, sociodemographic, and behavioural factors in children: results from the ToyBox study. Sport Sci Health 15, 175–181 (2019).

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  • Motor ability
  • Kindergarten
  • Preschool children