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Implementing the APPLE Model

RESEARCH: The Benefits of Physical Literacy for Children and Educators

Implementing the APPLE Model

The APPLE Model – Active Play and Physical Literacy Everyday

Dawne Clark, PhD

Playground Tunnel
  The APPLE Model  


Early childhood educators are not PE teachers; most don’t have the knowledge or the background to “teach” physical skills. But young children learn through play, especially active play, and that is something educators understand well. Their role is to create many opportunities for children to explore fundamental movement skills in stimulating environments indoors and out.

The term physical activity refers to movement that raises the heart rate, increases breathing, and causes a sweat. Physical literacy, a more comprehensive term, has been defined as the motivation, confidence, and competence to move for a lifetime. Physically literate children want to move, acquire confidence as they challenge themselves, and build competence as they learn the skills to control their bodies. With many opportunities, the cycle continues and children carry their growing physical literacy throughout their lifetimes resulting in healthy bodies and minds.

The APPLE Model was developed as a framework to help educators understand how to incorporate physical literacy into their playrooms and playgrounds. Rather than thinking of physical literacy as something that only happens during “activity time”, educators see ways to encourage children to move throughout the day indoors and out. The “core” of the APPLE is the definition of physical literacy – the motivation, confidence, and competence to move for a lifetime. 

The “skin” of the APPLE reflects four aspects of active play important for all children:

  • Environment

  • Play

  • Engagement

  • Relationships.

Colorful Indoor Playground
"Skin" of the APPLE
Environment, Play, Engagement, Relationships


Environment: Educators create stimulating environments that excite children’s curiosity and provide opportunities for them to explore new and thrilling movements and equipment. This exposure enables children to develop new skills. When children find that something doesn’t work, they work out better ways to move and conquer a task enhancing resilience and problem-solving skills.

Play: Young children learn through play that is joyful and that they direct. Children love to explore what intrigues them and practice over and over until they achieve a sense of mastery. Watching young children playing with something they have chosen or discovered is watching time disappear. Children need at least 45 minutes to plan and organize their play so extended play times are provided each day.

Engagement: Thoughtful educators know how to engage with children to facilitate or extend the play. They know that their active participation when children request it and modelling to show how exciting a new adventure can be will encourage and support children. When children begin to challenge themselves by trying to climb higher or using tools, the role of the educator becomes that of an engaged supervisor. Educators may guide children to use tools safely or learn how to move their hands and feet to climb. Educators don’t interrupt the play or caution children to “be careful”. Instead, they let children know that they are close by if needed but also ensure the children can do it – by themselves.

Relationships: Active play builds relationships in many ways - among children, between children and educators, and between educators and parents. Educators understand how to provide opportunities that encourage child-led play and challenge all children to reach above themselves. Children learn to work together, negotiate, settle disputes, and problem solve when they develop positive relationships with others. When educators, supervisors, and parents work together to understand the value and benefits of active play, children and the adults in their lives benefit in multiple ways.

Indoor Climbing Wall
  Importance of APPLE  


Physical literacy is as important to healthy child development as other literacies such as reading, writing, and numeracy. The benefits of being physical literate are many – cognitive, social, emotional, as well as physical. When the APPLE Model is incorporated into programs for young children, physical literacy is visible in all parts of the environment and in all that children do. Children are eager to move in many ways and love to practice until they have a mastered a new skill. Then they are ready to challenge themselves with something new. They are creative, curious, and capable of developing complex play involving others. They plan and make decisions. They focus and ignore distractions so the play won’t be interrupted. They regulate their emotions so that everyone can participate which reduces stress and anxiety. As a result, children feel confident and competent in their own abilities and ready to tackle the larger world.
















                                     Click the image to view full-size

APPLE Model.jpg
Kindergarten Classroom
  "Using the APPLE Model in my ECE Playroom"  





"The Model has given me the freedom to let the children learn through their play about who they are, and what they want and need."

 Nadine Ducharme | Revelstoke Corner Stones Child Care

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