Being physically active is more important to health than any other part of life that is under our direct control. Recent research suggests that it is better for your health to be overweight and active than to be at a normal weight and be inactive. Exercise for kids, offered in motivating ways that ensures they can be successful, is essential for them to develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes that ensure they stay active for a lifetime. This can be accomplished by providing exercise for kids in a way that makes it motivating and ensure they are successful.
This series will be discussing two primary concepts that are essential to exercise and physical activity programs for kids and youth:
- Physical literacy
- Fundamental movement skills
Regardless of what types of exercise of physical activities a child is exposed to, these two components are essential for long term participation and success in getting results.
Physical Literacy & Fundamental Movement Skills
Physical literacy refers to the motivation, confidence, physical competence, understanding and knowledge a person has obtained and how those components together assist in helping to maintain physical activity at an individually appropriate level, throughout life. An individual who is physically literate moves with confidence in a wide variety of physically challenging situations. In addition, the individual is perceptive in reading all aspects of their physical environment, anticipating movement needs or possibilities and responding in an appropriate manner.
Fundamental movement skills are a series of movement skills that are critical to establishing the foundations for participation in many sports and physical activities. These skills include: locomotor skills, stability skills and manipulative skills.
When a child has confidence in his or her ability to take part in recreational and sporting activities without fear, the chance they will join in is high; and if they enjoy the activity they will likely continue with it. A child’s movement confidence develops gradually as they grow and learn, and the child is constantly comparing their own level of ability with the ability of the children with whom they play. Physically literate children who move with skillful purpose know that they move well, and this confidence encourages them to try new and different activities without fear. Physical literacy also provides a foundation for sporting excellence.
The Importance of Physical Literacy & Fundamental Movement Skills
Physical literacy is, therefore, the key both to developing habits of life-long physical activity for enjoyment and health, and to the development of athletes who have the strong foundation that will permit them to reach the highest levels of international sporting excellence.
The learning and practice of fundamental movement skills are the basic building blocks for the development of physical literacy. Much like learning the alphabet and phonics are the fundamental skills needed to eventually read a novel, the development of fundamental movement skills, and fundamental sport skills, is critical if children are to feel confident when they engage in physical activity for fun and for health, or for competition and the pursuit of excellence.
Research shows that without the development of physical literacy, many children and youth withdraw from physical activity and sport and turn to more inactive and/or unhealthy choices during their recreation and leisure time. While it’s true that many children do develop good physical skills on their own by trial-and-error, there are many who do not; and for those the consequences can be significant and a detriment to their overall health over time.
Children who are physically skilled often enjoy vigorous healthy play, while the less skilled are often left out. This creates a vicious cycle. Those with the skills play, and through that play further develop their fitness and skill. In contrast, those who are less skilled play less, have fewer opportunities to refine and develop their skills, and fall further and further behind their skilled peers. Eventually many of the less skilled children stop trying and withdraw from physical activities that would help them become fitter and develop their skills.
To prevent this from happening appropriate physical literacy needs to be taught to every child. This teaching needs to occur in a wide range of settings, and many different people who support youth need to be involved. This includes: parents and guardians, teachers, coaches and community leaders.
Coming Up Next …
The next article in the series will outline how kids and youth learn fundamental movement skills and the negative consequences of not becoming physically literate in the developmental stages of learning.