Physical Literacy

Being confident and competent in your physical ability can make a big difference. Research has shown that staying active throughout life depends on this confidence, which can be developed in childhood.

Physical literacy isn’t about sports, games, or being competitive. It’s about the basic skills which form the foundation of movements. As children age, they get better at these basic skills and can use them in game and sport settings while feeling confident.

The three main categories of movements are locomotion, balance, and object manipulation. Within these categories are a wide variety of skills children need to master as they age. Some are more difficult than others, and many build upon each other, for example walking leads to running.

Some examples of the three main physical literacy categories include:


Physical Literacy - photo of child walking


Using alternating feet to move forward. One foot is always in contact with the ground.

Physical Literacy - photo of children running


Using alternating feet to move forward where both feet are off the ground, faster than a walk.

Physical Literacy - photo of child jumping


Using both legs to push off the ground to move. Progression sees the arms being used for more power, or jumping from one foot. Jumping can be done for distance or for height.

Physical Literacy - photo of child jumping


Using one leg to push of the ground to move. Can be done to hop up and down, or to move in a direction.

Physical literacy - photo of child skating


Similar movement skills to walking, but done on ice with skates. As the skill progresses, more one-foot balance is used in combination with pushing forward.


Physical literacy - Photo of child balancing on one foot

One foot balance (stork stand).

Supporting the body on one leg. Progress sees the free foot lifted and pressed against the opposite leg with the knee open to the side (see image).

Physical literacy - photo of child in yoga pose

Yoga poses.

A variety of yoga poses require balance skills as they’re held while the body is in an unusual position or stance for a prolonged length of time.

Physical literacy - photo of child doing handstand


Supporting the body on both hands with legs extended straight up.

Object Manipulation

Physical literacy - Photo of soccer player kicking ball


Using the foot to strike an object to make it move. The object can be stationary or in motion.

Physical literacy - Photo of child throwing a ball


Using the hands and arms to move an object. The thrower uses momentum and releases the object to propel it away from them.

Physical literacy - Photo of children playing catch


Using the hands and arms to receive an object from the air.  When developing this skill, the body may be used to cradle the object.

Progression sees the object being controlled using just the hands. In sport, specific gloves may be worn for catching (e.g., softball and baseball).

Physical literacy - Photo of child swinging a baseball bat


Using an object or a part of the body to propel an object away. For example, in tennis a racquet is used to strike a ball.

Related Websites

For more information on physical literacy, you can visit the following websites:

Active for Life

This site has a large database of activity ideas which can be organized by age group or skill.

Canadian Sport for Life 

This site covers physical literacy for parents, coaches, and educators. It offers tips for parents to ensure child has good experiences being active at all ages.

Physical & Health Education Canada

This site explains physical literacy, the different movement skills, and education strategies.


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