All kids have things to overcome. Fears, aversions, bad days, and skills they just can’t master are just a few things that challenge them. Children like my daughter, Alma, have more to overcome than typical kids. Alma has physical challenges, social issues, and difficulty following or understanding simple directions. All of these challenges, the everyday and the extraordinary, are reasons to take the time to work on physical literacy. Learning to run, kick, catch, and throw do far more than get kids’ muscles moving. These skills open a world of possibility for relationships, development, and fun for the whole family.
Here are 5 other important benefits for kids while they’re in the process of developing physical literacy:
1. Social inclusion
No matter where you go, a child who has a ball to kick and the skills to do so, has a friend. It doesn’t matter that my daughter’s kicks never land where her new friend is standing. It’s the same with a game of catch or a game of tag. Unlike other more complex made-up games involving imaginary princesses, these simple childhood skills make it easy for kids to connect with other children of all abilities.
2. Bonding with parents
There is nothing Alma likes more than a cheer and a hug. That feeling of having the support you need to thrive is universal. Learning skills like trapping a goal in a net or throwing a ball at a target give plenty of opportunities for hugs and cheers. Many of the things kids have to do in a day are met with resistance, but playing with mom or dad is always welcome. It’s a great way to change a sour mood, make a tough transition easier, and smooth over any emotional bumps in the day.
3. Success in school and in life
Most children don’t rely on therapy in the same way special needs kids like Alma do. But gross and fine motor skills are universally important for success in school and beyond, and physical literacy helps develop those skills. When therapy looks and sounds and feels like play, and not like work, the skills come faster. Typical families may not look at it this way, but your family is doing complex therapy without even knowing it.
Moving and reacting in unexpected ways give kids of all abilities the opportunity to face challenges in a low-risk environment. If you kick the ball and miss, it’s no big deal. Just try again and again. Eventually, you’ll make contact. Then you can place an emphasis on scoring. These challenges foster resilience, which, in turn, builds confidence. Once a child has confidence, there’s no telling where they might go.
A strong foundation of physical literacy gives a child with special needs an excellent way to feel normal. But I don’t believe that feeling is reserved for kids like mine. Being able to play in the backyard with siblings, at the park with neighbourhood kids, and at school with classmates allows my daughter to experience childhood the same way her peers do. Together, they have fun and enjoy shared interests. All the kids she plays with see interactions with her as “normal” life, too. Regardless of the score at the end of a game, I believe everybody wins.
Image courtesy of Melanie Cote