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Developing Physical Literacy

The learning and practice of fundamental movement skills is the basic building block for the development of physical literacy. Much like learning the alphabet and phonics are the fundamental skills needed to eventually read Shakespeare, or, identifying numbers and learning to add and subtract are the fundamental skills needed to eventually balance a cheque-book, 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 leisure time.

"Children tell us that not having the skills to play is one major reason they drop out of physical activity and organized sport."


Physical Literacy: What is it?
Physical literacy is the development of fundamental movement skills and fundamental sport skills that permit a child to move confidently and with control, in a wide range of physical activity, rhythmic (dance) and sport situations. Physical literacy also includes the ability to “read” what is going on around them in an activity setting and react appropriately to those events.

For full physical literacy children should learn fundamental movement skills and fundamental sport skills in each of the four basic environments:

On the ground – as the basis for most games, sports, dance and physical activities
In the water – as the basis for all aquatic activities
On snow and ice – as the basis for all winter sliding activities
In the air – basis for gymnastics, diving and other aerial activities


Fundamental Movement Skills

To become physically literate children need to master fundamental movement skills, but this mastery does not come all at once, and we need to remember that children are not just “adults in miniature”. For almost every skill the developing child needs to go through a series of developmental stages (For example, see Figure 3 to see how throwing changes as the child matures). The goal should be to help each child move to the next most mature version of the skill they are learning, rather than pushing them to perform the skill the way an adult would.

Helping Children Learn Fundamental Movement Skills

Although children mature and learn at different rates, almost all children learn their fundamental movement skills in the same sequence, and go through the same phases: When a child can learn a skill: As a child grows and develops (matures) nerve cells make more connections, while at the same time, the muscles of the body are getting stronger. Until the brain is mature enough, and the muscles strong enough, the child simply cannot learn the skill, and trying to teach the child does little good. What is important at this time is providing the child with as many opportunities to explore all possible movements in a rich environment – which means that the child’s environment needs to be both safe and challenging.

Growth means an increase in body size, such as in height or weight. Maturation is the process in which the child’s body changes to become progressively more like that of an adult.

The child is ready to learn the skill:
At a certain point in maturation, all the hardware – the muscles and nerves – have developed enough that the child has the potential to perform a particular skill (the readiness factor), and now they have to learn it. As the skill begins to emerge naturally, learning can be dramatically improved through opportunities for fun practice using lots of different equipment and materials. Giving the child some simple instruction and lots of practice can help the child develop confidence that stays with them for life – although this may not speed up the learning process.

The optimum time to learn the skill:
For every emerging skill there is a “best” time for the child to learn. At this time, helping the child though simple instruction and practice can improve learning, and pay great dividends.While the “best” time to teach a particular skill to an individual child varies, there is great consistency in the sequence in which children learn skills. In indication of the best time to teach some of the more common fundamental movement skills can be found inFigure 4 and Figure 5.

Time for remedial work:
If the child goes too long without learning a skill, then learning it may become more difficult.However, the sooner the child starts to overcome the learning deficit the easier it will be for them to catch up and develop the skill and confidence needed to be fully active with their friends and peers.  


Judo and LTAD

An organized and well run Judo program lends itself excellently to deveolping Physical literacy. Judo is one of the most well rounded of all sports. It assists young children in developing many different physical capacities. These include balance, coordination, agility, speed, strength, and cardiovascular endurance.

The "do" in judo translates to way of "way of Life" as its creating Dr. Jigoro Kano instilled in his development of the sport. Therefore not only does Judo develop many of the necessary physical qualities but it also goes further to develop the person as a whole entity.