What is it?
According to the International Physical Literacy Association (IPLA), physical literacy is "the motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge and understanding to value and take responsibility for engagement in physical activities for life." In other words, it's having the skills, enthusiasm and confidence to maintain an active lifestyle throughout life. It means people have the toolbox of skills to understand how their bodies move in a variety of different activities.
If you've ever seen someone who can go from one sport or fitness activity to another with ease and confidence, they have physical literacy. They may not be the best on the field, but they are comfortable with the different movements that those different sports or activities require. In addition, they choose to be active on a regular basis. Physical activity is part of their lifestyle.
Why is it Important for Kids?
When a child is taught a variety of skills in different settings through a variety of physical activities, they build the confidence and motivation to take part in physical activity throughout their lives.
Physical literacy helps kids build body awareness and movement they can transfer to many different sports and activities. When kids are aware of and understand how their bodies move, they develop self-confidence they can apply throughout their lives. They're not afraid to try new sports or new fitness activities.
Unfortunately, childhood obesity is on the rise. Children are spending more time inside sitting watching tv or using electronic devices. Because they're spending more time doing sedentary activities and less time taking part in physical activities, kids are lacking physical literacy. Parents may notice their kids have trouble balancing, standing up from a sitting position or squatting down to pick something up. These are just a few examples of the effects we may be seeing in kids.
When kids lack these basic physical skills, this can cause them to lack the self confidence they need to take part in athletic or fitness activities. They feel safer sticking to more sedentary activities. We know well, the more time people spend sitting, the higher the chances are for obesity and the underlying health conditions that come with it.
How can we Build Physical Literacy in our Kids?
In order to help build physical literacy in our children, we need to introduce kids to a variety of sports and physical activities from a young age. Let them try baseball, football, soccer and anything else they may be interested in. A lot of parents feel they need to have their kids stick to one sport in order for them to build the skills they need to become great athletes. In reality, most kids stop taking part in competitive sports by 7th grade. If they have only been exposed to one sport, they may lack the confidence to try anything else. For many, that is the end of their physical activity. If we let them try different sports, they develop a variety of skills they can apply throughout their lives and build confidence to continue physical activity beyond their youth.
Something else we can do to build physical literacy in kids is to help them build different skills not specific to a sport. Climbing, hopping, skipping, pushing and pulling movements. These are all things people need to learn and develop in order to develop body awareness which leads to physical literacy. Play is an excellent way for kids to develop many of these non-sport specific skills and movements. We can provide opportunities for our kids to get up and play in physical ways. Going to the playground, playing tag, hide and seek or other similar games, taking part in fitness classes that incorporate a variety of movements are all ways to help our kids develop physical literacy.
In addition to teaching kids the skills, we need to be good role models. If our kids see important adults in their lives being active and making activity part of their lifestyle, they'll see the importance and want to do the same for themselves.
So, let's get them out there moving their bodies and having fun because our kids need it, now more than ever.