Physical Literacy

Last updated: March 22, 2023, at 5:00 a.m. PT

Originally published: August 6, 2020, at 8:07 p.m. PT

physical literacy

As more screen time has become the norm in our daily life, the motivation to encourage play and physical development has shifted. As we look at new ways to stay active and healthy, we should include the concept of Physical Literacy.  

Physical Literacy is a growing concept within the United States. The Society of Health and Physical Educators describes it as “the ability to move with competence and confidence in a variety of physical activities in multiple environments that benefit the healthy development of the whole person.” Physical literacy is essential to a holistic health perspective. 

When we examine different sports and recreational activities, youth of all ages are able to develop the core skills of physical literacy: running, balancing, hopping, skipping, jumping, dodging, gliding, falling, lifting, swimming, kicking, throwing, and catching. The best thing to do is to encourage all of these movement styles – even if there is a particular passion for one area. The more varied the play, the more likely a physical lifestyle will become habitual. 

The Aspen Institute's Project Play compiled a strategic plan and call to action to help improve the rates of physical activity. In their report, you can see the different sports tied to athletic skills. However, physical fun is possible every day! Our Youth Sports team has also put together some great ideas for you to increase your physical literacy:

  • Make a daily task more active. Try balancing on one foot while brushing your teeth or prepping a meal. 
  • Change how you go up and down stairs. Hop from one foot to the other, run, or shuffle along each step.
  • Turn chores into a game. Recycled paper dodgeball, laundry basketball, and speed clean ups will help you stay in motion.
  • Make your virtual check-ins with family members active. Pacing or dancing while you talk together will help you motivate each other.
  • Try new sports and recreation. The more you encourage new activities, the more likely you’ll be able to keep a favored sport fun and interesting!
  • Use the 13 skills listed above to help you map out 60 minutes of activity. Turn 12 of the activities into 5 minute ‘bursts’ and you’ll be improving your physical development and changing the day to day routines.

About SHAPE: The Society of Health and Physical Educators is an American organization that provides support to professionals in health, physical education, recreation and dance.

About Project Play: The Aspen Institute’s Project Play has been called the “conscience of youth sports.” Our mission is to develop, apply and share knowledge that helps build healthy communities through sports. We identify gaps and work with leading organizations to fill them so every child in America can access sports, regardless of zip code or ability.

Category: Sports Activity