Learn more about current school issues and trends from Sanford School’s educational experts.  Sanford’s blog is sure to help you navigate your child’s educational journey.

Move It!: A Beginner’s Guide to Physical Literacy

Posted by Shannon Helmecki on September 21, 2018 at 12:30 PM
Shannon Helmecki

sanford_school_physicalWhen you hear the word “literacy” you probably think reading and writing, but did you know that there’s also physical literacy? Project Play gives this definition: "Physical literacy is the ability, confidence, and desire to be physically active for life.”

What Is Physical Literacy?

Put simply, physical literacy is developing the fundamental movement skills that children need, such as running, hopping, throwing, catching, and jumping. Once achieved, it gives children the confidence to participate in a variety of physical activities, sports, and games, whether on dry land or in the water or snow. With practice, kids are better able to enjoy being physically active in ways that can continue throughout their lifetimes. When students adopt a "can do" attitude about movement, the same attitude can carry over to their schoolwork. In fact, many studies have shown that engaging in physical activity can lead to improved academic performance, so when kids get active they reap both physical and cognitive benefits.


Physical literacy does not take special skills; kids simply have to get outside and play. Climbing the monkey bars, kicking a soccer ball, or playing tag are all activities that contribute to a child's physical literacy. At Sanford School, we offer opportunites for free play every day, and when students come to Physical Education class in the Lower School teachers encourage growth by focusing on the four essential parts of physical literacy highlighted by Dr. Dean Kriellaars, a professor at the University of Manitoba. Kriellaars states that to fully develop physical literacy students should be encouraged to think about:

  • Awareness: Where is my body in relation to other people or things around me?
  • Selection: What movement is best for this situation?
  • Sequencing: How can I put multiple movements together to achieve a goal?
  • Modification: What should I do differently as my environment changes?


When you build the physical literacy of a child, you lay a foundation of lifelong health habits. At Sanford School, our students are constantly active, whether walking through our 85-acre campus to go to classes, participating in engaging physical education classes or playing on our newly remodeled playgrounds. We encourage you to keep this going at home! Kick a ball, stretch on a yoga mat, swing on a swing set—do whatever you love as long as you and your children get moving!

Click Here to Learn About  Sanford's Physical Education  and Health Program

Shannon Helmecki is Chair of the Physical Education and Health program at Sanford School in Hockessin, DE. She has taught and coached at Sanford since 1996. Shannon received her Bachelor of Science degree at East Stroudsburg University and her Master of Science in Health Education from West Chester University.

See Also: Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds

Topics: Education, Athletics, Health & Wellness, Parenting Tips