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Physical Literacy for Kids

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Physical Literacy for Kids

Thirty years ago, kids did not have video gaming consoles and cell phones to keep them entertained. Rather than sitting in front of a computer screen for hours on end, kids would venture outside for fun. They would climb trees, jump on trampolines, throw baseballs, kick soccer balls, and run at full speed while playing tag. Nowadays technology has found its way into every home in some way, shape, or form. A study conducted by the CDC in 2011 found that nearly one-third of high school students play video or computer games for 3 or more hours on an average school day.1 As of 2012, only 6 states (Illinois, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New York and Vermont) require physical education in every grade, K-12.2 In January of 2015, the World Health Organization published a report on physical activity which found that over 80% of the world’s adolescents did not meet the recommended activity guidelines of 60 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous intensity.3 Kids are not getting out and about and experiencing the same amount of physical activity than children in the past.

So, what does physical literacy mean? Physical literacy refers to a child's ability to develop a movement vocabulary.4 The concept of physical literacy has been adopted by many countries including Great Britain, Canada and Ireland, and has served as a cornerstone for the importance of developing physical education programs in the schooling systems. In schools, kids are graded on their ability to develop both verbal and numerical vocabularies, however the development of a movement vocabulary is unheard of. Kids who are not provided with opportunities to participate in free play are less likely to acquire the movement skills necessary to engage in age appropriate physical activities. One organization that specializes in physical literacy defines a physically literate child as one who has "the competence, confidence and motivation to enjoy a variety of sports and physical activities".4

Physical Literacy for Kids Physical literacy should allow a child to run, jump, throw, balance, and kick in a wide variety of environments (ground, water, ice and air).4,5 When young children are deprived of the opportunity to participate in free play, they don't develop the same motor skills as active children. A child who has not developed age appropriate motor skills is less likely to engage in physical activities with their peers as they feel awkward and uncoordinated. By withdrawing from these activities, their motor skills fall even further behind and they enter a vicious cycle of inactivity. Due to their lack of confidence in physical activity, these children are likely to maintain their inactive lifestyle into adulthood. Inactive adults are more likely to take 1 week of extra sick days per year and pay $1500 more per year in health care costs.6 It is also important to mention that inactivity can lead to increased weight, increased blood pressure, increased cholesterol, and increased risk for diabetes. It is easy to see the importance of developing a strong movement vocabulary at a young age so that it can be maintained throughout an individual’s life.

Kids 6 years old and younger shoulder participate in free play- unstructured and non-repetitive play. Physical activity is extremely important during this phase in life, especially in the first three years of life as the brain grows rapidly and learning creates more Physical Literacy for Kids connections in the brain4. Enhancing gross motor skills at a young age increases coordination, social skills, hand-eye coordination, imagination, and self-esteem which will benefit the child throughout his or her lifespan. A kid who feels more coordinated and confident is more likely to participate in sports which fosters leadership and a sense of belonging.

Hopefully in the coming years, there will be a greater movement throughout the US to strive for physical literacy in the education system as well as in individual homes. Children need to be provided with a variety of environments and activities to develop a wide range of motor skills that will enable them to participate in an active lifestyle for years to come. This is an important factor because if a child participates in just one activity, their motor skill set will only be tailored to that one activity which could lead them to developing musculoskeletal injuries that are typical in adults.

Ensuring that our children are physically literate will help to build a strong, healthy and motivated generation! Become part of the movement and help get your kids outside and moving today!

Sarah Glynn, SPT

4- Higgs, C., Balyi, I. & Way, R. (2008). Developing physical literacy: A guide for parents of children ages 0 to 12: A supplement to Canadian sport for life. Vancouver, BC: Canadian Sport Centres

Picture 2- agility ladder drills for kids
Picture 3-

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