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Physical Literacy in the Early Years

August 28, 2018 by HealthyFamilies BC

Physical Literacy in the Early Years

What do running, jumping, and throwing have in common? They are all things that kids love to do, and at the same time are key building blocks for being physically active for life. What I’m talking about is physical literacy. Physical Literacy is having the movement vocabulary (fundamental movement skills) and motivation, confidence and competence to move for a lifetime!

The Importance of Physical Literacy in Early Childhood Education

It is essential for early childhood educators (ECEs) to understand the importance of learning through play for children between 0-6 years old. To increase the chances for children to be physically active for life they must develop physical literacy at an early age. ParticipACTION has some great resources like the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines, which provides information on the length and type of activity that is recommended for different ages.

Why is physical literacy important in the early years?

The early years provide a window of opportunity for developing motor skills and establishing lifelong patterns. It’s also a time of rapid growth and physical, emotional and social development. Physical activity in the first five years helps your child’s brain grow and develop and improves their social skills.

Children of all ages learn through active play. Active play can be done in a number of ways including adult-led or free play, indoors or outdoors, and in groups, pairs or alone. Active play leads to children improving their movement skills and confidence.

Motivation, Active play, Repetition to Competence, Confidence: the Physical Literacy Cycle


  • Places where they move freely
  • Playing and socializing with others
  • Games and activities that challenge them
  • Opportunities to express themselves and lead activities
  • Adult role modelling and support

I encourage you to check out Appetite to Play, which offers an interactive activity planner to help you plan and brainstorm different activities and games. You can also call the Physical Activity Service for ideas and resources on how to keep you and your little ones active by dialling 8-1-1.

Author’s Bio:  Drew Mitchell is the Director of Physical Literacy for the Sport for Life Society and works as a consultant focused on the development of physical literacy at the community level and promoting the Canadian Sport for Life Movement. He is a graduate of Simon Fraser University with a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology. Drew has worked extensively in the sport system as an educator and developer of programs for the past 19 years. He managed Sport Technical and Performance Services for viaSport BC and was the Manager of Science & Medicine programs for SportMedBC where he worked with over 50 different sports at the local, provincial and national level. He is also a past member of the Canadian National Canoeing Team and the former Health & Lifestyle Coordinator at the Downtown Vancouver YMCA. Drew has been involved in sport and fitness for over 40 years as an athlete, coach, administrator, volunteer, developer and manager.

Related blogs:

Physical Literacy is More than Reading and Writing

Recommended resources:

ParticipACTION: Benefits & Guidelines, Early Years Age 0-4
Canadian 24-hour Movement Guidelines
Appetite to Play



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