There are some pretty simple things parents can do at home to build their children’s physical literacy.
- Give your children plenty of opportunity for active play. How much? Canadian guidelines recommend a minimum of 60 minutes (and up to several hours) of unstructured daily physical activity for young children.
- Provide toys that support active play. Consider balls of different sizes, balloons, bean bags, skipping ropes and hoops.
- Use little facilitation. Set up opportunities for different movement pathways (running, jumping, hopping, crawling), projection (throwing, kicking, hitting) and reception (catching/retrieving) that require minimal facilitation on your part.
- Introduce variety within a skill. If they are throwing, ask: “How high/far can you throw? Is it different with heavy/light/big/small balls? Can you hit a target (start big) like the side of a house?”
- Set up safe situations to try skills. Obviously hitting their sibling with a stick is out, but using a foam bat to hit a tennis ball in a sock hanging by a rope from a branch provides a safe opportunity to experiment.
You can try a bit more structure by putting it all together into an obstacle course. Have your child help lay out the circuit or do it themselves. Unless it’s a matter of safety, don’t worry about showing your child the ‘right’ way to use sports’ equipment. A critical component of physical literacy is the ability to string movements together into different combinations. Building ‘circuits’ and creative use of equipment can jump start this process.
With your support, your child can gain a foundation of physical literacy that will allow them to enjoy a wide variety of sports (recreationally or competitively) for their entire lives. Canadian Sport for Life is a great resource for those interested in learning more.
Jennifer Hood is the owner of Jump! Gymnastics www.jumpgymnastics.ca
in Vancouver where the physical-literacy based curriculum draws on her seventeen years experience teaching developmental gymnastics. She speaks to parent and school groups about the importance of building physical literacy.
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