The development of physical literacy is an ongoing process throughout childhood. During the early elementary school years, children should be refining their fundamental movement skills and starting to develop some basic sport skills.
1. Striking sports
Striking is the act of hitting an object – such as a ball – with either your hand or a tool – such as a racquet, bat, or stick. As a skill, it demands the ability to track an object in the air or on the ground. It’s an essential skill for sports such as baseball, hockey, volleyball, tennis, badminton, and many more.
Tip: With minimal investment in basic equipment, your can introduce your child to simple striking activities at home (like a plastic ball and bat, plastic street hockey stick, and so on). See which types of activities might appeal to her, and then consider registering her for introductory programs in sports such as tennis, hockey, baseball, and volleyball.
2. Dribbling sports
Dribbling skills are key to sports such as basketball, soccer, and hockey. In each instance, dribbling refers to the ability to manipulate and redirect the movement of the ball or puck with small, controlled touches of the hand, foot, or stick. Dribbling is really about fine motor skills, and these skills only develop through practice and repetition.
Tip: Your child can practice dribbling skills at home with her own basketball, soccer ball, or hockey stick and ball. When selecting an introductory program in one of these sports, make sure that the program emphasizes the development of these skills. At this age, skills are far more important than winning.
For pre-adolescent children, gymnastics remains one of the best activities for overall development of agility, balance, coordination, strength, and flexibility. It incorporates a wide variety of movement skills to make it perfect for “one-stop shopping” in physical literacy.
Tip: Children’s gymnastics programs don’t usually feature competition, and your child doesn’t need to aspire to compete at the Olympics. Most kids have fun with basic gymnastics, and if you want one program that develops a wide range of core skills, gymnastics is it.
Skiing costs more than most activities, but if you are able to manage it, this is the age to get your kid to the slopes. Children between six and eight learn quickly as their low centre of gravity makes it relatively easy for them to balance on skis. Skiing could also be your child’s gateway to getting involved in a variety of other winter “sliding” sports such as snowboard, cross-country, and luge.
Tip: Ski resorts offer low-cost introductory one-day ski programs for kids that include the cost of their lessons, equipment, and lift ticket.
If you started your child in introductory swim lessons in preschool, hopefully she has kept up with swimming either through school or with subsequent lessons at your local recreation centre. Again, it’s not necessary to be aiming for an Olympic gold medal. Earth’s surface is 75% water, so she’s sure to find a use for those swimming skills sometime.
Tip: Keep your child in swimming lessons until you’re confident she is safe in the water. If she decides to chase an Olympic dream, that’s nice too, but it’s not a decision you need to worry about.
Like swimming, skating continues to be a good core skill set for the average Canadian child. It doesn’t matter whether or not your child pursues figure skating, hockey, ringette, or speed skating. Her skating skills will allow her to forever enjoy an activity that promotes fitness, balance, and coordination, whether on ice skates or roller blades. Skating is also a great social activity for children and teens in rinks across the country.
Tip: Like swimming, look into beginner skating programs at your local recreation centre, and take the family to occasional public skates at the rink to practice your skills. And have fun.