Choosing the right daycare, preschool, or recreation program can feel like a monumental task for parents and caregivers. Not only do we have to wade through countless options, but we also have to consider location, timing, and cost. Most importantly, we want to choose a program that will help our young child thrive! No pressure, right?
One key feature that sets daycares, preschools, and other programs a step above the rest is whether or not they encourage physical activity. A program that prioritizes movement and physical literacy helps young children develop key movement skills and gives them a leg up in their childhood and life. These types of programs pave the way to help kids develop the skills, confidence, and love of movement to be physically active for life.
For more information about physical literacy and how it helps your child thrive read this helpful Introduction to Physical Literacy [PDF].
How to choose a program that promotes physical literacy
If you’re wondering how to choose a daycare, preschool, or after-school program that promotes physical literacy, you’re in luck. Sport for Life and Active for Life have developed a Quality Sport Checklist [PDF] for just that purpose. Despite the name of the checklist (it’s not just for sports), this tool gives parents and caregivers all the right questions to ask daycare owners, preschool teachers, and coaches about their programs.
Print the Quality Sport Checklist for Preschool and School Programs [PDF] and use the 20 “yes or no” questions on the first page to assess the physical environment, the type and amount of play encouraged, and the kind of training and values the caregivers and coaches hold. Add up all the points and see how the program stacks up on the scorecard. A score of less than 9 means you might want to look elsewhere, but a score greater than 17 means you might have found a gem.
To see how this checklist works, here is a real-world example of what a high-scoring day home program looks like.
Real-world example: Mini Movers Day Home
Mini Movers is a dayhome facility in Calgary, owned and operated by Dallas and Darren Wing. As the name suggests, their program promotes age-appropriate movement skills throughout the day. Mini Movers was started after recognizing a need in the community for a physical-literacy-based dayhome. With a background in kinesiology and experience as both an Active Start coach and program director, Dallas and her husband felt like they could fill that void. They sure have! Mini Movers currently ranks a 19 out of 20 on the Quality Sport Checklist.
You might be wondering why their program ranks so high. Mini Movers used the Quality Sport Checklist to design their program along with the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for the Early Years (0-4 years). From the get-go, they set up their space to provide opportunities for various types of active play.
Here’s a quick peek at what an average day at Mini Movers looks like:
7:00 – 8:00 am
Drop-off and time to explore the main area with toys, crafts, and sensory bins.
8:00 – 9:00 am
Breakfast followed by more time to explore the main area.
9:00 – 10:00 am
Active play indoors (sometimes outdoors) which includes activities like yoga, dance, and gymnastics, as well as free play.
10:00 – 11:45 am
Snack time followed by outdoor free play and/or indoor free play (if the weather limits outdoor time). During free play children have access to a wide variety of equipment to practice physical literacy (hoops, balls, balance boards and beams, climbing walls, etc.)
11:45 – 1:00 pm
Lunch break and story time.
1:00 – 3:00 pm
Nap or rest time. Older children rest for 30 minutes then engage in quiet play activities while the younger children sleep.
3:00 – 4:00 pm
Snack time and active indoor or outdoor play.
4:00 – 5:00 pm
Pick-up and free play.
Here’s a quick video showing some of the activities and play areas at Mini Movers:
As you can see, Mini Movers builds in a minimum of three hours (180 mins) of active time into their day using a variety of structured and unstructured activities. This is the kind of program that parents should be on the lookout for!
Make movement matter
Not every community has a dayhome like Mini Movers but by using and sharing the Quality Sport Checklist we can make the best choice available for our young children, as well as promote awareness about the importance of movement and physical literacy in our community programs, daycares, and preschools.
If you have any questions about this checklist or know of a great daycare, preschool, or sports program that could score high on the Quality Sport Checklist, please leave a comment in the section below.