RESEARCH: The Benefits of Physical Literacy for Children and Educators

Research Highlight Stories

Enhancing Physical Literacy through Emergent Curriculum

Emergent curriculum is an important early childhood education concept which encourages educators to adapt activities to meet the interests and abilities of the children. This February (2019), the children were excited about Groundhog Day approaching so many of the activities we did were geared towards this interest. As part of the Physical Literacy study, I wanted to use the activity “Squirrel Tails” (APPLE Seeds program), but I adapted the skills in the activity (walking, hopping, jumping, and balancing) and developed a "Groundhog Maze".


I introduced the activity by reading a story book, Ten Grouchy Groundhogs by Kathryn Heling. We talked about the legend of Groundhog Day and looked at pictures of real groundhogs. The children learned about some groundhog behaviour such as living in a burrow and hibernating in the winter.


Then I created a maze with masking tape on the carpet. A square starting area was the "burrow" (small enough that children had to huddle together and practice balancing). From the burrow I taped "tunnels" with some turns leading to an open area where the “groundhogs” looked for their shadows and then scampered back to the burrow. I made the tunnels about 6 inches wide so the younger children could use them successfully. Older children could walk on a single line of tape along the edge for more of a balancing challenge. We also added in various movements such as hopping, skipping, walking backwards or sideways, and so on. Children enjoyed using their hands to make groundhog ears on their heads as they played, which also made balancing more challenging. The toddlers watched the older children play and then tried imitating by walking and crawling after the older children.


After enjoying the activity together, we left the groundhog maze on the carpet for free play. Sometimes children repeated the groundhog activity and sometimes they used the maze for different play such as driving vehicles or walking stuffed animals.


When my consultant, Heidi, came to visit, she asked the children questions about what they were playing. She started by modelling the movements she pretended they may have tried. First, she asked if they stepped on the tape of the maze like a balance beam. They all laughed. Next, she stood on one foot and hopped through the tape. They laughed again and said no. Then, the children showed her how to play in the maze and taught her about groundhogs. All of this while giggling, playing, and having a wonderful time.


Contributed by Lucinda Parker (Dayhome Provider) and Heidi Greenhalgh (Dayhome Consultant). 

Heidi, Lucinda, and Learn N’ Laugh Family Dayhome Agency, Rocky Mountain House are participants in the Physical Literacy Proof of Concept Study in Child Care. Heidi shared this story during one of our mentor meetings in March, 2019.

It's been a long cold winter. With few chances to go outside and get some fresh air, many of the children were beginning to feel the effects of cabin fever. One child in particular was hit hard. As the winter dragged on, he became less and less able to control his emotions, both good and bad. Outbursts and meltdowns became a daily occurrence and the educators and his parents began to struggle to find ways to help him regain control.


One particularly hard day, we introduced Ready, Aim, Kick!, an activity from the APPLE Seeds program. We were hesitant because kicking was one of his behaviours, but we decided to give it a try. He was so focused the entire time, willing to wait his turn, to share, and to keep practicing when he missed. However, when we returned to the classroom, his afternoon slowly went downhill. At the end of the day, bouncing off the walls, thoroughly upset and unable to regulate his reactions, another staff asked him to join in on a game of soccer. The more he played, the calmer he became. His kicks became less wild, he ran in circles less, he yelled less when he missed. By the time Mom arrived he was a completely different child.


The next day, when it got closer to the end of the afternoon and his actions started to become more erratic, we offered him the option of playing soccer when we got to the gym. Even without the actual ball in front of him, the promise of being able to play soccer was enough to help him calm his emotions down and focus through the rest of his afternoon. Now, it has become a staple in our daily play. We take balls with us to the backyard (as we share the space with other classrooms, this has presented new challenges with sharing that have to be negotiated, but this has been much more successful that it may have been in the past), we play with balls and targets much more often in our gym play, and we have tried to find ways to incorporate kicking and throwing games in our daily routine. The need to focus, aim, and follow through has given him an opportunity to slow his thoughts, to take things one step at a time, and as his competence and his confidence with these skills grows, I'm hoping that we'll be able to start to transfer these skills throughout activities throughout the rest of our day.


Contributed by Alissa O’Rourke

Happy House Daycare, Cold Lake AB


Alissa and Happy House Daycare are participants in the Physical Literacy Proof of Concept Study in Child Care Settings. She shared this story during one of our mentor meetings in April, 2019.

Regulation through Soccer!

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