Physical Literacy

Physical literacy is at the heart of all our recreation programs–especially for children

Being able to catch, jump, run, swim or throw are just a few examples of physical literacy in action. Skills like these are the building blocks for children to build a strong foundation to confidently participate in an increasing variety of activities as they grow.    

Many of our activities and programs support the development of physical literacy and encourage healthy, active lifestyles–and it’s never too late to start! Here's a sample of what we offer for every age and ability:

See all of our programs and activities

Physical literacy is the motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge, and understanding to value and take responsibility for engagement in physical activities for life."     - The International Physical Literacy Association, May 2014

Why is it important to start young?

During the early years, your child’s brain and nervous system are continuously developing. Physical activities and games support the development process.

Physical literacy is developed by doing. As parents, teachers, coaches and recreation specialists, we can get children off to a great start by teaching them the movements and skills they need to feel confident and motivated.

Without a foundation in physical literacy, children begin withdrawing from sport and recreation between 10 and 12 years of age. Their physical activity falls below healthy levels and they may miss the social benefits because they’re not taking part in an activity that may interest them. 


Children who have more physical skills choose active play more often and are more likely to stay active for a lifetime.  

  • Positive social skills: Participation in physical activities helps children regulate their emotions and learn cooperation and teamwork.
  • Skills development: Learning basic movements leads to new skills for sports and games that build confidence and self-esteem.
  • Physical development: Activity builds strong bones and muscles, good hand-eye coordination, good posture and increased flexibility.
  • Injury prevention: Improving balance, stability and flexibility can help reduce or prevent injuries.
  • Health: Regular activity leads to better sleeping patterns, less anxiety and improved concentration.

How can I help my child become physically literate?

  • Start with yourself–become a role model for active and healthy living! Your child is watching and learning from you.
  • Encourage and respect your child’s rate of development. Your child develops skills at their own pace as their brain and muscles grow.
  • Make active living a part of your everyday routine–Health Canada offers great tips and reasons to be active.
  • Help your child find a physical activity that they enjoy. Our programs and activities offer options for every interest.
  • View our fundamental movement skills posters to help your child practice and play. 

Preschoolers should enjoy at least 60 minutes of organized activities (like swim classes or a hike with you) and at least 60 minutes of free play time (where your child chooses their activity) over the course of the day.

School-age children should enjoy at least 60 minutes of moderate activity (e.g. playground activities, bike riding) to intense activity (e.g.: running, swimming) over the course of a day to have better concentration skills and do better in school.

Adults, don't forget yourselves when it comes to being active. Health Canada recommends 150 minutes/week for moderate activity like walking or running.

There are lots of ways to learn foundational movements and skills--through structured activities like swimming or skating lessons or unstructured play at one of Burnaby’s many playgrounds. We offer programs and activities for every age and ability.

For preschoolers:

  • slithering like a snake, or rolling on the floor or down a small grassy slope
  • riding a scooter or a bike, with or without pedals, to develop balance and coordination
  • running–not just in a straight line, but with stops, starts and changes in direction
  • tag and chasing games
  • throwing and catching–start with soft objects that your child can catch or throw easily
  • balancing games, standing on one foot or walking backwards

For school-age children:

  • court sports like tennis, basketball, volleyball
  • individual activities like hiking and biking
  • playground group games like dodgeball, tag, hide & seek
  • gymnastics, swimming and skating
  • after school sports programs

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