More About Physical Literacy at the FUNdamental Stage

This stage is critical for the development of physical literacy and the time when children lay the foundations of many advanced skills. Skill development is best achieved through a combination of unstructured play in a safe and challenging environment. Children need quality instruction from knowledgeable teachers, leaders and coaches in community recreation activities, schools and minor sport programs.

Skill development during this stage should be well-structured, positive and FUN, and should concentrate on developing the ABCs – Agility, Balance, Coordination and Speed, plus rhythmic activities. Children should be encouraged to take part in land-based, water-based as well as ice- and snow-based activities throughout the year.

Hand and foot speed can be developed especially well during this stage. If this window of opportunity is missed, body speed later in life may be compromised.

Strength, endurance and flexibility need to be developed, but through games and fun activities rather than a training regimen.

At this stage, it is critical that children learn to “read” the movements going on around them and begin to learn decision making during games.

Things to think about:

  • Children this age should not specialize in a single sport.
  • Children can play their preferred sport once or twice a week, but they should take part in other sports or activities at least three to four times per week.
  • Children this age have a strong sense of what is “fair” and should be introduced to the simple rules and ethics of sports.
  • Basic tactics and decision making can also be introduced.
  • Using equipment that is the right size, and that fits well makes learning activities safer and much more enjoyable.
  • Equipment swaps and rentals are one way to keep the cost of participation down – and this is particularly important for children with a disability who need specialized sports equipment.

Fundamentals – Physical literacy activities

  • Encourage children to engage in unstructured physical play with their friends every day, regardless of the weather.
  • Continue to play catching, throwing, hitting, running and other physically demanding games with both boys and girls.
  • If possible, enrol children in programs that offer a wide variety of different activities (multi-sport programs). Try as many different activities as possible.
  • Attend parent-teacher, or other school meetings and advocate for quality physical education programs in the school – with sufficient time allocated (recommended allocation 150 minutes per week – 30 minutes per day) taught by a qualified physical educator.
  • Don’t be concerned with the score. At this age many programs that include competition don’t keep score. This puts the focus of the program on learning and having fun, rather than on doing whatever it takes to win matches, games and leagues.
  • Don’t believe the myth that early specialization in sports such as soccer or hockey will lead to greater performance later in life. Developing all-round athletes at this age is far better for long-term ability. Only a very few sports require early specialization (e.g. gymnastics and figure skating).