Physical Literacy – Active Start Stage

Physical literacy is developed in three stages, beginning when a child is less than a year old and continuing until age 12. The first stage, called “Active Start” focuses on developing basic movements in children ages 0-6. Incorporating physical activity into their daily routine is essential for children in this early stage of development.

Canadian Sport for Life, an organization dedicated to improving the health of all Canadians, states that incorporating physical activity into a child’s routine reaps significant physical, cognitive, and emotional benefits. These include: enhanced development of brain function, coordination, social skills, gross motor skills, imagination, positive self-esteem, flexibility, healthy bones and muscles, reduced stress, and more.

To be clear, for children ages 0-6, physical activity does not mean weight lifting, running a 10k, or swimming laps at the local pool. Physical activity up to age six should be interpreted as active play. According to Coaching Ireland, a unit of Sport Ireland, an organization that oversees the development of professional and recreational sports in Ireland, “Unstructured physical activity and active play are recommended for several hours per day for toddlers and preschoolers.” This can include playing catch, riding a bike or tricycle, or dancing to a favorite song. The key elements of a successful Active Start are:

a.) incorporating activity into a child’s daily routine; not making it a separate requirement

b.) always making physical activity FUN!

Introducing physical literacy concepts at an early age lays the foundation for children to enjoy a lifetime of physical activity. Beginning in the Active Start stage, children move on to develop fundamental movement skills (fms) and later, fundamental sport skills (fss). Children will have much greater difficulty continuing on this path to physical literacy if they aren’t encouraged to be active at a young age. This deficit created by a lack of physical activity at an early age can result in lower self-confidence and decreased motivation to be active as children get older and begin to compare themselves to their more active peers. Thus, this early stage, while often overlooked or under-appreciated, is crucial to a child’s lifetime level of physically literacy.

For more information on the Active Start stage visit the links below:

Canadian Sport for Life – Parental Guide for Developing Physical Literacy

Active For Life – How to Give Your Baby and Active Start

Active For Life – Physical Literacy Activity Ideas and Resources