In Winnipeg, early childhood educators and caregivers are learning how to address a whole new dimension of infant and toddler development: physical literacy.
Recently, the Access and Engagement & Physical Literacy working committees from the Winnipeg Community Sport Policy saw the need to promote physical literacy as a means to combat health risks for children in the city. They decided that early childhood education centres were essential to making it happen. The question was, where to start?
The working committee approached the University of Winnipeg to make recommendations and develop a program for early childhood educators and caregivers who work specifically with infants and toddlers ages zero to three years. The result was an innovative three-hour training workshop and physical literacy companion resource called Movement for Life.
According to Dr. Melanie Gregg of the University of Winnipeg, part of providing this physical literacy training to educators and caregivers is to have them understand what physical literacy is and how it’s beneficial to children’s four developmental areas: social, cognitive, emotional, and physical.
“Each of these areas do not have to develop alone,” says Gregg. “Early childhood educators tend to focus more on the social and emotional. However, these four developmental areas are interconnected and different activities can build on more than one developmental area at a time.”
The workshop highlights the neurological structures and stages of emotional development that educators and caregivers need to consider in order to give children the foundation for a lifetime of physical activity. Both the workshop and the accompanying resource reflect the notion that every individual’s physical literacy journey begins at birth, and infants and toddlers begin that journey largely through unstructured learning and guided play.
In completing the Movement for Life workshop and accessing the resource, the goal is that participants will acquire greater confidence, understanding, and competence in providing developmental opportunities in physical literacy for very young children.
They’ll have an understanding of what physical literacy is and they’ll learn why physical literacy and physical activity are so important. They’ll also have practical strategies on how to facilitate movement and purposeful play while supporting physical literacy, physical activity, and active play in their early childhood centres.
The City of Winnipeg isn’t new to this realm. The city has been active in implementing and addressing physical literacy since 2014 as part of its commitment to building healthy communities in and around Winnipeg, so the investment in Movement for Life made sense.
The Community Services Department has established a core group of trainers to deliver the Movement for Life program. They promote and share the workshop in communities and with summer program leaders, and they’re now considering the possibility of providing the workshop to coaches, parents, and health practitioners who are connected to families.
“The key things we have learned from participants so far is that they want information like this,” says Gregg. “They particularly like the concrete examples of activities and the emphasis that physical literacy development can be built into everyday activities, and it doesn’t have to be a separate part of what they do.”
Another key partner in Movement for Life is Fit Kids Healthy Kids. Its leaders guide early childhood educators in the centres involved in the program to deliver active sessions to children. The goal here is for early childhood educators to learn by doing. Other collaborators on the project include Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and Manitoba Health: Seniors and Active Living.
It’s the plan in the near future to have the program materials translated into French, as well as to have all resource materials available online.
“We hope to see today’s generation of children become more physically literate than their parents and grandparents moving forward,” says Karen Glugosh, community resource coordinator with the City of Winnipeg’s Community Services Department, Community Development & Recreation Services Division. “Physical literacy must be nurtured, promoted, and practiced to have impact.”
Related read: For early years educators: Physical literacy can be easy