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What is physical literacy and why is it important to the development of your child?

by FAMILY talk

Mike Roberts of LittleLions Rugby tells us his take on it and helps us understand how we can assist our children in getting the exposure they require.

Let’s start with the textbook definition of ‘Physical Literacy’

“Physical literacy can be described as the motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge and understanding to value and take responsibility for engagement in physical activities for life,” The International Physical Literacy Association (IPLA)


I’m saddened every time I see a small child’s excitement when engaging with an electronic device, my own children included.  They seem to have replaced physical activity and the motivation to play outdoors with other children. We are increasingly seeing a world where Fortnite, Minecraft and Candy Crush are the new pastimes of choice.


As a family, we have imposed rules for electronic gaming and both my children are limited to the time they are able to spend glued to screens. As a result, they both play sport and have other interests aside from technology and I am keen to encourage this for as long as possible.

Also read “What parents should know before giving children their first smartphone” article

My passion

I love sport, all sport, but particularly rugby – it’s been my passion for many years and something I have been able to share with friends and family. My business LittleLions-Rugby is all about passing this love of the game down to the next generation. Using rugby related skills to allow children to participate in physical activity in a group is something I am committed to. In layman’s terms, physical literacy is about the positive relationship between being involved in physical activities and psychosocial development. Through getting your child involved in sport and physical education they will be able to access skills that are fundamental to their development. These skills learned during play, physical education and sport really do contribute to the holistic development of young people.

Not all about scoring

It’s not about scoring a try or playing an actual game of rugby. For 2 to 7-year olds, it’s about understanding teamwork and respect for themselves and others. Learning to throw, catch and kick a ball can have hugely positive effects, as can the values of honesty, fair play and adherence to rules. There is an overwhelming body of evidence that children’s mental and physical health are benefitted by the effects of sport and physical exercise. I hope that our LittleLions will be encouraged to continue healthy habits and develop a life-long love of sport. Also that this will in some small way combat the inertia of gaming and the virtual world.

Improved learning performance

Sport-based programmes have been shown to improve the learning performance of children and young people, encouraging school attendance and a desire to succeed academically. However, given all this evidence of the power and benefit physical activity, society is still slow to pick up on this. The public health agenda is constantly looking to introduce programmes to get young children off the sofa and take up activities that will contribute to their current and future health. However, as a nation, we do not seem to be bought into this. A recent report published by Sport England shows that only 17.5% of young people are meeting the current Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines of taking part in sport and physical activity for at least 60 minutes every day. Breaking that number down it shows that girls lag behind boys in engaging in sporting activities.


If this is something that concerns you – then one option is to find a club or activity that your children will enjoy and that will promote life-long healthy habits. Having your child attend a sports class teaches them that exercise is fun and something to be enjoyed with their peers and sometimes even with their parents. It not only helps them burn off energy and build muscles, but it is instrumental in the formulation of their key motor skills and the development of their personal and social skills.

Putting the ‘FUN’ in fundamental

At LittleLions-Rugby we work hard on the fundamentals of physical literacy in all the games we play. With the ‘FUN’ in fundamental at the top of our goals. Sessions are attended by both girls and boys who enjoy the fun of moving around and learning. How to pass, catch and run with a ball. Through this, they become increasingly agile whilst working in a team environment. They are encouraged to learn how to take turns, share and work together. Classes last an hour and are designed for toddlers, pre-schoolers and KS1 children who will grow and develop, and laugh a lot!

Additional information:

LittleLions can be found at various locations across North Leeds. For more information visit:


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About The Author

Smalltalk Magazine

Since 2005 Smalltalk Magazine is a printed A4 information magazine aimed at parents, distributed throughout the Yorkshire region. Printed 6 times a year it is distributed free to over 300 parent-friendly locations in the area. Full of useful and informative articles about family life.