You wouldn't just read your child a book or two and expect them to be literate, and nor does signing your little one up for the occasional gymnastics or soccer class set them up to be physically literate for life. Our dream here at Jump is that teaching physical literacy becomes a larger part of the Canadian sport curriculum. Sure, every kid isn't going to become a competitive athlete, but every child should have this door open to them, just like learning to read or learning math. While we do see that change slowly coming to Canadian sport we're not quite there yet; and in the meantime we're committed to teaching physical literacy through our curriculum.
To us physical literacy gives your kids the tools – the actual movement and sports skills – to master any sport and stay active for life as it's been proven that children with poor physical literacy skills struggle to be active as adults.
From 0 – 6 kids are in the active start stage where they should be exploring movement in a play-based environment, while from 6 – 11 they should be introduced to sport skills - not necessarily competitive sports, but learning and practicing sports skills. In the active start stage the learning should be mostly student lead but during the second phase the learning should be a mix of student and teacher led. (For more information on the Stages of Long-term Athlete development click here.)
And just like reading and math, physical literacy is developed organically over a period of time. We liken it to the slow food movement or to a whole language curriculum: instead of cramming physical learning into an hour once a week and pushing it hard, it is far better to build physical literacy into your little one's everyday life and “slow cook learning” as they explore and have fun. This approach also allows them to choose the sports that most interest them rather than you choosing something for them before they're ready, or that may not be their passion. Research (and common sense) tell us that kids who actually like the sports they participate in and have been given the tools to succeed are far more likely to become champions and ultimately choose an active lifestyle as adults.
We see the effects of physical literacy in our own little Jump-ers all the time. Jen really noticed it when her kids started skiing as they had the balance and coordination skills to take up skiing really quickly. This inspired us to ask some other Jump families how they see physical literacy manifesting in their families and here's what they had to say:
“Bryan and Norman are lifers at Jump and they have not stopped learning. They love the variety of the classes and the friendly coaches. Throughout the years, I have observed their progress in agility and strength which have helped them in other sports such as tennis, Taekwondo and swimming. Forward roll is their current specialty & they love showing it off to me!” ~ Khangmin, mother of 2
"Our family enjoys an active lifestyle, and the physical literacy philosophy that guides Jump Gymnastics has been an integral part of our daughters' lives over the last 3 years. Our oldest daughter has a natural athleticism, and her classes, camps, and play sessions at Jump enable her to explore movement and strength in an environment that is age appropriate. At this point in time, she is keenly interested in all sporting activities, be it at school or in extra-curricular's, and her confidence was surely bolstered as a result of the positive experiences she has at Jump. On the other hand, our younger daughter has experienced a much different gross motor development, where her balance, strength, and agility have not come easily. Jump has played an invaluable role for her, not only by boosting her confidence in athletic activity, but in guiding her body to develop as it could. Every session she gains skill and strength, and now truly enjoys the physical output. We know that the Jump program has been a perfect investment for both of our girls, and we are so thankful that instead of competition, it instills confidence." ~ Joanne, mom of 3.
Wondering where your kid is on the physical literacy spectrum? This super useful series of videos and checklists from Active For Life (we love them!) shows you what your kids should be up to and when.
Jen says: this is one of those great messages for parents. Encouraging families to relax, slow-down and find room for play not only helps families in the short term but actually sets kids up for greater success in the long term. Whether a family has goals for their child to be on-top of a podium or more modest lifestyle aspirations, physical literacy is the key to setting the foundation for success.