Press release submitted by Dennis Geelen, KLSRC Coordinator
On May 29-30th, over 25 early childcare providers and TLDSB employees participated in a workshop facilitated by Dr. Dawne Clark of Sport for Life, who demonstrated that physical activity is a vital building block of healthy child brain development.
The workshop was the first step towards achieving a goal shared by the Lindsay EarlyON center and the Kawartha Lakes Sport and Recreation Council (KLSRC) – to increase physical activity among children 0-6 years in the City of Kawartha Lakes. But the participants learned that a critical factor in their success will be to first help children develop physical literacy.
Physical literacy (defined by The International Physical Literacy Association) is the motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge, and understanding to value and take responsibility for engagement in physical activity for life.
“In simpler terms, children need to learn and practice fundamental movement skills like hopping, throwing and catching in a fun and supportive environment to gain the confidence and competence to use these skills to participate in physical activity”, notes Dennis Geelen, KLSRC Coordinator. “Similar to learning to read and write, confidence and competence comes from learning the fundamentals, practicing, and receiving positive reinforcement.”
An Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) grant awarded to EarlyON in 2018 led to a partnership with KLSRC and Sport for Life. Sport for Life is a Canadian organization that is helping to educate communities across the country about physical literacy and its importance. The partners are now working together to equip CKL early childcare providers and kindergarten school teachers with increased knowledge about physical literacy and how to embed the concepts into their daily programs.
“It is our goal to see an improvement in the physical, mental, and social health of every child in the City of Kawartha Lakes through increasing understanding of the importance of quality, early physical literacy experiences”, says Pippa Stevenson, EarlyON Executive Director.
The workshop brought together people from a diverse group of organizations and sectors within the City of Kawartha Lakes including the local Health Unit, the Boys and Girls Club of Kawartha Lakes, Community Living Trent Highlands, the Trillium Lakelands District School Board, and several licensed childcare centers like EarlyON, Point in Time, Compass, and Tot Spot.
“It was a wonderful opportunity to network with like-minded thinkers to plan the necessary steps to make physical literacy an important national movement”, stated Kirsty Mason from Compass.
The participants discussed factors contributing to the decrease of physical activity levels and adventurous play in our children over the past 20-30 years. One factor is the development of a culture of anxiety and fear around potential for injury, but as Dr. Clark demonstrated, the increased time children are spending sitting in front of screens, is also further stunting the healthy development of their brains.
Throughout the rest of 2019, childcare centers and some TLDSB classrooms will be provided with equipment bags (funded through the OTF grant) and activity suggestions, as well as implementation support through subsequent workshops to help link physical literacy into their curriculums.
Leslie LeClair is the Early Learning Coordinator for Community Living Trent Highlands and worked with EarlyON and KLSRC to help organize the workshop. “Educators inherently understand that engaging in professional learning will make a difference to the lives of children. We as a profession are compelled to consider new research and the implications of that research on our daily practice. Having the opportunity to participate in valuable professional learning is a key to ensuring on-going quality within our programs”, noted LeClair.
The hope is to build a network of physical literacy champions within CKL and further expand the awareness and understanding to more centers, organizations, and families around the importance of developing physical literacy in our children. Similar partnerships are underway in other communities around the province of Ontario with Sport for Life helping to provide the education and materials needed.