A recent study in Canada assessed the physical literacy amongst children 8-12 years old. The study was led by Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) spanned three years and surveyed over 10,000 children. What they found: only one-third of children in the study met the basic level for physical literacy.
What Is Physical Literacy?
According to The Aspen Institute’s Project Play Initiative, “Physical Literacy is moving with competence and confidence in a wide variety of physical activities in multiple environments that benefit the healthy development of the whole person.”
This doesn’t just mean being able to run a mile or do a sit up. Physical literacy is about a child’s ability to feel competent in basic physical activities, like throwing and catching a ball, running, kicking and jumping. Many may think these actions come to kids intuitively, but research has found that’s not the case. Not only are kids not competent in these basic skills, but their desire to go out and play physically is also on the decline.
The Project Play Initiative examined physical literacy in 10 countries, including Canada. The idea is that physical literacy is something instilled in young children that will follow them throughout their lives. The long-term health benefits of kids who adopt an active lifestyle are clear, but proponents claim that physical literacy helps kids developmentally and socially, as well.
Project Play believes the only way to positively impact physical literacy is to address the affective, cognitive and physical components. The affective component focuses on the motivation, confidence and responsibility kids need to participate in physical activities. The physical piece is about moving the body appropriately in different contexts. The cognitive speaks to a child’s knowledge or understanding of how to play.
Canada has developed a multi-faceted approach in an effort to increase physical literacy among its youth. The Canadian initiative is focused on reaching kids through school, organized sports and recreational sports. Resources are available for educators, coaches and parents to help promote the recommended amount of physical activity to help kids develop and maintain a healthy lifestyle. The goal: to have all Canadian children physically literate by the age of 12.
The importance of play is widely known, as reported by Parentology earlier this year. In this digital age where kids are more focused on screens and might be less inclined to get outside, Canada has joined several other countries making physical literacy a priority.