Guest author: David Benay (teacher, physical literacy advocate, and Ottawa Gym Critic – @OttawaGymCritic)
Last night, as I was sitting down in my Lambie costume handing out sugarless treats to children and playing the Star Wars theme song to every Jedi I saw, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic about my childhood. I started thinking about all of the activities we now take for granted that helped develop our physical literacy.
I was lucky enough to grow up on a military base called Borden. Borden had everything a child needed to kill time from sun-up to sun-down. Borden is really the place that I developed most of my physical literacy. It had 1000’s of climbable trees. I developed my body strength by climbing those trees, inventing obstacle courses and jumping off them to learn naturally how to absorb shock. My skin became rugged because of the tree bark. It didn’t matter, I had fun. It only really hurt when I showered afterward.
My leg strength definitely came from all the biking I did. My friends and I had a biking gang and would ride all over the base. We’d go into the woods and mountain bike. There was a huge hill in the forest that we all had a hard time climbing but once we got it, we felt very accomplished and confident. Feeling confident plays a critical role in developing your physical literacy. We’d bike to our school’s playground and use the monkey bars, play Sandman, try to climb the soccer posts or even the school (when we grew older and more courageous/rebellious).
We kept developing our leg strength and our cardiovascular system during winter. We’d grab our GT Snow Racers – the one with Brett Hull on the box – walk to the forest, find a hill, slide down and then walk back up. We would slide down for hours which meant we walked up for hours. Once we got bored, we’d slide back down and try to bump each other off our GT’s. We’d walk back up and repeat. Our legs felt sore afterward. We all went home to eat lunch and promised to meet up immediately after to play street hockey. We would play street hockey until it was time to eat.
I could go on and on about all of the activities I used to do that helped my physical literacy. I hope you’re reading this article and nodding your head in agreement because you had a similar type of childhood. If so, let’s bring back free play. Free play is the best way to develop our children’s physical literacy. The more they play, the more confident they will become. The more confident they will become, the more open they will become to try new activities. If your child doesn’t like to play because he prefers his iPad, the solution to that problem is simple: you must become his role model. Chances are, if your child sees you playing outside, they will to. Eventually, they won’t need you anymore and they will go out and play by themselves or with their friends.
Remember to have fun! Here are just a few ways even adults can play again…
- Climb those monkey bars (yes, even if you are a dad or mom!)
- Buy yourself a skateboard and enjoy the road
- Play street hockey
- Organize a pickup soccer game
- Keep your balance on the sidewalk curb
Want to learn more about physical literacy? Click here to check out this great resource!