The term physical literacy has been around since the 1990’s, but how can we better understand what it means and how we teach it to our children? A UK sports council flyer from 1991 described the concept as such: 'Physical Education creates literacy in movement, which is as vital to every person as literacy in verbal expression itself.' With a global inactivity and obesity crisis looming, how can we teach our children to be more physically literate and whose responsibility is it?
If we think about the concept rationally, a physically literate child should have a better chance of developing into a physically literate adult. According to the forward from UK Active’s CEO David Stalker to ‘Start Young, Stay Active’ “We know that generally active children become active adults and that promoting active lifestyles from the earliest possible point can help us address some of the important challenges facing the UK today.”
So how do we achieve these goals since PE programmes in most schools across the UK happen only once per week which falls way below the NHS’s guidelines for children and young people?
1. Teaching children that physical activity is important from a young age can help. Reinforcing the importance of a bit of fresh air each day can make all the difference and your child can end up encouraging you to get out and get active too.
2. If it’s too cold, or wet, or you’re just too exhausted after a long day at work - just get them moving indoors. Create games similar to a 10 minute Shake Up or if you have more than one child, they love to compete against one another in indoor relays or home made obstacle courses!
3. It you have very young children, it’s important to teach them the language of physical activity and how it pertains to their own minds and bodies! Let them stop and feel their heart beating faster after running, and how exercise makes them thirsty. Connecting these activities with the effects they have on them personally will help to make them more physically literate.
4. Limit TV time. I happen to really love watching films with my son. But, we also have a great time getting out and about doing activities together. Taking 30 minutes after dinner to have a walk around the neighbourhood always makes us feel good and sleep better. Plus, inevitably we run into amazing people we know on the way which can lead to impromptu visits to the park and other adventures. We come home feeling great and can still have time for other activities, like TV, before we head to bed.
There is hope on the horizon. With more people becoming aware of the importance of physical activity and pioneering programmes such as The Mile A Day Programme in Stirling, things are looking up and a much needed balance of activity between school and home is coming into being. We all want the best for our children. What better way to show it than to impress upon them a skill that should be considered as important as reading and writing? A skill that will not only improve their minds and bodies, but can help them to live longer, healthier lives? A skill that they will pass on to their children? Start Young, Stay Active.