Mind & Body
Getting a Jump on Physical Literacy
7/4/2018 10:48:11 PM
Physical Literacy

Physical literacy is a relatively new buzzword in the fitness industry. Because of the decline nationwide in children engaging in physical exercise, many children aren’t getting the opportunity to develop confidence and coordination in physical activities. Physical literacy addresses this growing need with targeted programs designed to motivate young people, encourage a desire for fitness, and enhance a child’s ability when it comes to movement skills. 

Years ago, P.E. classes and recess at school included time on monkey bars, playing chase, and other childhood games along with structured physical activities. For a variety of reasons, this organized playtime that was a gateway for children to learn and develop movement skills, has diminished and more sedentary activity has been embraced, especially at home. In many homes, children are indoors playing on a tablet or video game, rather than being active outdoors.

"We’ve noticed a decline in activity in children,” explains Suzy Trahan, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist, ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Director of Dynamic Dimensions Fitness Centers of West Calcasieu Cameron Hospital. "Many times, children don’t want to participate in physical activities. They see it as a punishment. Health and fitness experts are looking closely at this behavior; research is showing that because children aren’t as active anymore, there is a decline in their movement ability or physical literacy. Just as we teach children to read and write, we’re finding that they benefit from fundamental movement skills. This, in turn, gives them confidence to participate in various physical activities and sports, which benefits their overall development physically, socially, and mentally.”

Parents can look for basic movements to see if their child is on track with physical achievements or if they need a little help in that area. Here is a list of basic physical movements that should be reached in early school-aged children. This is not a comprehensive list of physical literacy achievements, but a good start in checking a child’s abilities.

Forward roll. This is just a simple roll on the floor but it shows a reasonable degree of flexibility and coordination.

Flat-footed squat. This movement consists of standing upright, squatting down, then standing up again. It indicates a blend of flexibility, coordination, balance, and strength. Some children have difficulty keeping their feet flat on the ground, which points to the need to work on balance and strength in key leg muscle groups. 

Swimming. The ability to swim and be comfortable and confident in water is important not only for physical achievement but also for safety. 
Strike an object. Hitting a ball with a bat, or a birdie with a racquet is a good indication of hand-eye coordination and balance.

Land solidly from jumping. Watch as a child jumps down from an elevated position. Do they land with their knees aligned squarely above their feet or do their knees collapse inwards? Landing solidly helps children be able to hop, a fundamental movement skill. 

Confidence to try sports. Children who have a reasonable degree of physical literacy feel confident trying a sports activity. Being able to run, jump, and throw gives them the skills they need to try their hand at any number of sports. 

"It may seem like these skills are naturally learned by children as they grow up, and in some cases, they are. But because our society has changed away from consistent movement throughout the day to a more sedentary lifestyle, many children aren’t given opportunities to learn basic movement skills,” Trahan says. "Activities and games are to physical literacy what nursery rhymes are to language: it’s a fun and simple way for a child to develop the skills they need. Children who are physically literate will be more confident to play games and participate in activities.”

Under Trahan’s direction, Dynamic Dimensions in Moss Bluff is launching Dynamic Kids, a new training program designed to encourage physical literacy in children ages three to 12. "The activities are centered around the elements of physical literacy, so that all of the children develop basic movement skills and have the tools they need to enjoy an active lifestyle. When children are encouraged to be more active and enjoy it, they have a strong foundation for continuing these good behaviors as they grow into adulthood.”

The benefits of being physically active are numerous and include increased self-esteem, as well as better performance in school and reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes. 

Dynamic Kids will focus on movement development such as balance, strength, and agility; social skills such as teamwork and cooperation; and character building such as kindness, respect, and responsibility. "The coaches for this program are all professionally trained in exercise and movement and they truly have a love for teaching and coaching kids,” Trahan explains. "Their passion for moving is contagious!”

For more information about Dynamic Kids, call Dynamic Dimensions Moss Bluff at (337) 855-7708.
Posted by: Christine Fisher | Submit comment | Tell a friend

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