Can you improve early childhood motor skills through television? Learning from Akili and Me


This is one in a series of four articles exploring the use of early childhood development messages in children’s television programming.

Ubongo meets IDELA

As a response to the challenges faced by children entering primary school, Ubongo, a Pan-African social enterprise aimed at significantly improving school readiness and learning outcomes for kids through localized edutainment, developed and tested 52 episodes of a new television series called Akili and Me. Akili and Me was designed in part around the IDELA competencies and covers all four domains measured by IDELA: motor development, social-emotional development, emergent literacy, and emergent numeracy.

Akili and Me now airs on free television in eight countries to a monthly audience of 8.2 million. The show offers several episodes within the motor development domain whereby children learn how to draw shapes and the human body to further develop their fine motor skills and episodes like “Fun Yoga For Kids” for gross motor skill development. In addition to videos, Akili and Me also airs songs like Touch Your Head/Touch Your Toes” on various media platforms to encourage the development of motor skills.

Why Is Motor Development Important in Early Childhood Development?

Motor development is the process by which young children develop their bones, muscles and the ability to touch and move within their environment. Motor development can be categorized into two groups: gross motor skills and fine motor skills. IDELA assesses both groups in corresponding assessment tasks. Acquiring strong motor skills has been linked to school readiness; preschoolers who performed better on fine and gross motor skill assessments were more likely to have better social behavior, follow directions and pay attention throughout the school year (Oregon State University, 2016). Parents and caregivers can help facilitate motor development by encouraging children to explore, play and interact with a variety of different objects (Bunce, 2014).

Using IDELA to Assess Motor Development for Akili and Me

Using IDELA, Ubongo (alongside research partners from the University of Maryland and Daystar University) conducted a randomized control trail to assess the impact Akili and Me had on pre-primary children in Morogoro, Tanzania. The study took place in 9 government primary schools and involved 568 children between the ages of 4-5 years who spoke Kiswahili as a first language and come from low or middle-income families. Children were assessed using IDELA before and after 4 weeks of viewing the show. The research team concluded that children who watched Akili and Me exhibited a 9% gain in fine motor skills in comparison to children in the control group.

To learn more about Akili and Me’s impact had on child participants, click here



Bunce, P. (2014, November 12). Penfield Children’s Center. Retrieved from
Oregon State University. (2016, October 13). Preschoolers’ motor skill development connected to school readiness. Retrieved from