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What is physical literacy?

Jun 15, 2015
written by: Catherine Cameron
written by: Catherine Cameron
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The other day, I was standing talking to some parents outside my community tennis club, when a woman recognized me from my work at ParticipACTION. “You’re the perfect person to ask what physical literacy means,” she said.
She’s not the only one mystified by the term, despite it being widely used within the sport and physical activity sectors for several years.

Happily, physical literacy is really quite a simple concept: it’s about developing the necessary movement skills in children that in turn give them the confidence to participate in active play, games and sports. I’m talking about skills such as running, jumping, throwing and catching.

If you’re a parent today, the odds are high that you acquired these fundamental movement skills largely through active outdoor play as a child. Playing at the park, throwing and catching with a friend, active games such as tag and hopscotch… this was how many of us developed the skills and confidence required to play baseball, join the school track team, play tennis, and participate in the activities many of us still enjoy today. Sadly though, so many of today’s children are considered inactive and simply aren’t becoming physically literate.

Here’s what you can do to help your child:

  1. Be an active role model and encourage movement from infancy
  2. Provide access to a variety of sports equipment and toys to encourage active play (balls, jump ropes, baseball equipment, sidewalk chalk, a kite, hula hoops, and more)
  3. Make time to be active as a family every day
  4. Encourage your child’s natural desire to explore, move and play
  5. Introduce young children to the active games you played as a child
  6. Allow your kids to take risks in the playground (i.e. swinging from the monkey bars, jumping from playground equipment, etc.)
  7. Advocate for active play and more physical education at your child’s school
  8. Encourage structured and unstructured free play
  9. Encourage your kids to play outdoors with friends
  10. Talk to your kids about the value and fun of being active at every stage of life

Developing fundamental movement skills in our children is every bit as important as ensuring they learn to read and write. Children you are active and confident playing sports, grow into active and healthier teens, and are more likely to remain active throughout life.

How are you developing physical literacy in your children? Tweet with me @cate_cameron and join us on twitter @TennisCanada.