10 creative ways to develop physical literacy that don’t involve playing sports

“My son not only doesn’t play sports … he doesn’t watch them either. GASP!! I know, it’s a tragedy, right?”

In her post, “No, My Son Doesn’t Play Sports … Really, It’s OK!” Kerry Foreman — mom, psychotherapist, writer, and speaker — writes about the cultural expectation for boys to play sports. And she describes how she receives a lot of negative comments from other parents because her son doesn’t.

But she’s absolutely right. It’s totally okay that her son doesn’t play sports.

While every child should have the opportunity to develop physical literacy, that doesn’t mean everyone has to do so by playing sports. Physical literacy is more than just sports. It’s about being confident in any kind of physical activity — including things such as dance, parkour, and skateboarding.

Having said that, if your son — or daughter, for that matter — says they don’t like sports, it is possible they just haven’t found one that they enjoy yet. So why not introduce them to many different activities and ask them what they like and why?

Do they shy away from competition? Are they worried about letting down a team? They could be missing out on developing skills away from sports that would give them more confidence and enjoyment.

We tend to think narrowly when it comes to boys and their activities. Not every boy will want to play hockey, soccer, or baseball. Maybe he’d like to try fencing, diving, dancing, or gymnastics. The options are only limited by our imaginations.

Here are 10 ways kids can be active, develop skills, and have fun without playing sports:

1. DrumFIT 
2. Biking or fat biking
3. Nature photography
4. Parkour
5. Hiking
6. Theatre (for babies right on up)
7. Trampolining
8. Circus school (even toddlers can participate)
9. Geocaching
10. Yoga

Bonus suggestions: Dance is amazing for boys but we didn’t put it on the list because we consider it a sport as well as an art. But if your son isn’t interested in team sports, he may love hip hop, jazz, or ballet.

When looking for activities for your children, be creative and follow their lead. With enough space and time, they’ll show you how they love to move. For example, if your child is climbing the walls at home, it may be time to check out the local climbing gym.

Have other great ideas to share about how to develop physical literacy without sports? We’d love to hear them in the comments below.

2 responses to “10 creative ways to develop physical literacy that don’t involve playing sports

  1. There are lots of things that are sports that people wouldn’t think off, like synchronized skating, pickle ball, lawn bowling or dragon boat. Some people might consider skiing and skateboarding sports but others wouldn’t. Scouts, guides or similar organizations are a good choice. My son’s group plays a lot of physical games, and goes skating, climbing, and canoeing. Marching bands exist in some cities even for school aged children. Horseback riding and sailing are a nice choices for those that have the means (again these are arguably sports.) Weightlifting is a bit tricky, because kids need to be taught proper movement without being made to feel like they need to lift heavy or do multiple sets, but as long as there is no pressure and light weights, it isn’t a bad things for kids in small amounts. Sometimes we just pop in a good ol’ exercise DVD. Also, there’s chores like mopping, raking leaves, walking dogs, shovelling snow, washing walls etc. A push lawnmower will help anyone stay fit.

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