Physical literacy – A vaccination for youth?

Feb 23, 2015

Up Up, Down Down – Tickle the Kitty – Superman! These are Dean Kriellaars instructions for a core workout that doesn’t just strengthen your muscles, but teaches your brain to move your muscles.

The world leading physical literacy researcher demonstrated this technique in a series of workshops on best practices for teaching movement vocabulary and skills at the Health and Physical Literacy Summit in Kamloops on February 20 and 21. Using little more than ladders and beanbags, teachers in the region gained insight into his quality lesson plans for prompting repetition, creativity and the acquisition of new skills in fun, non-judgemental ways.

According to Kriellaars, by the time kids are 15 years old, only 11.9% of Canadian boys and 3.4% of Canadian girls are meeting minimum activity guidelines. With 42 diseases related to physical inactivity, it’s not hard to imagine the impact this will have on our healthcare system.

He believes that physical literacy – the ability to use movement skills to participate in activity – could be the vaccination. Physical education, recreation and sport, together, can deliver health, and it was great to see so many people from the schools, from the community and from our sport partner, PacificSport, working together toward this goal.

By providing quality physical literacy instruction to physical education teachers, he is already seeing a difference. In his keynote lecture, Kriellaars cited a school where one of the teachers physically enriched the environment by putting hopscotch tiles in the hallways. Rather than walking to class, the kids would hop, skip and jump repetitively, and with intention, between every class. Not only did they learn these movement skills, but they also spent more time on task during their classes.

He says that accountability of the curriculum is the missing piece. Movement vocabulary is to physical literacy what the ABC’s are to literacy and the 123’s are to numeracy. Without it, kids can’t perform movement sequences and tasks. Physical literacy should have equal weight with literacy and numeracy in the classroom if we want our kids to be active for life. 

Learn more about the physical literacy movement at