Young children with better eye-to-hand co-ordination are more likely to achieve higher scores for reading, writing and maths, according to a study.
The study, published in the journal Psychological Science, suggests that schools should provide extra support to children who are clumsy.
"The results show that eye-to-hand co-ordination and interceptive timing are robust predictors of how well young children will perform at school," said Mark Mon-Williams, a professor at the University of Leeds in the UK.
Over 300 children aged four to 11 took part in computer tasks to measure their co-ordination and interceptive timing - their ability to interact with a moving object.
The tasks designed to measure eye-to-hand coordination involved steering, taking aim and tracking objects on a computer screen.
In the 'interceptive timing' task, the children had to hit a moving object with an on-screen bat.
This task taps into a fundamental cognitive ability - how the brain predicts the movement of objects through time and space.
The researchers suggest that this skill may have provided the evolutionary foundations for the emergence of cognitive abilities related to mathematics, a theory first proposed by the famous Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget in the 1950s.
After controlling for age, the results revealed that the children who did better at the eye-to-hand coordination tasks tended to have higher academic attainment in reading, writing and maths.
Those with the best performance at the 'steering task' in particular were on average nine months ahead of classmates who struggled.
However, the researchers found that while the children's interceptive timing skills tended to predict their attainment in mathematics, it did not influence reading and writing development.
"The study identifies the important relationship between a child's ability to physically interact with their environment and their cognitive development, those skills needed by the child to think about and understand the world around them," Mon-Williams said.
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