Physical Literacy for Your Kids

Literacy is key for children — but it’s not just about reading any more. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is calling for physical literacy, too. 

That means understanding, valuing, and taking responsibility for physical activity throughout life. 

It starts with kids. Just about one quarter of American children actually get the amount of physical activity recommended by the AAP. What’s the recommendation?

  • Infants need at least 30 minutes of active play in the course of a day — think tummy time.
  • Toddlers need at least three hours of active play, including neighborhood walks, free play outdoors, and whole-body games.
  • Preschoolers still need more than three hours of active play, including one hour of physical activities like tumbling or playing catch.
  • School-age kids need at least 60 minutes of active play each day, including free play and sports. Add activities to strengthen muscles and bones three times a week.
  • Middle schoolers and teens need the same amount of physical activity, and may also choose to engage in competitive sports.

Getting enough physical activity is connected with better physical health and cognitive development. The evidence that your family bike ride or home dance party is good for your kids is overwhelming. But physical literacy goes beyond the activity.

Physical literacy includes attitudes

Physical literacy involves knowing how to move confidently and competently in many situations. It also includes valuing physical activity and planning to stay active throughout a lifetime. Kids should understand that adults as well as children like to be active. They should expect to be active every day throughout their lives.

They get this knowledge from their parents and other adults in their community. But they’re less likely to pick it up naturally. Unsupervised outdoor play is less common now than it was in earlier generations. PE in school is less common and less active than it was in the past. Parents now need to provide an example of physical activity, and to encourage kids to play outside. 

Which of these games do you know?

Maybe you enjoyed some of these games and activities as a child. See how many you can try with your children this spring!

  • Hula hoops
  • Jump rope
  • Flying a kite
  • Freeze tag
  • Other types of tag
  • Potato sack races
  • Catch
  • Simon Says
  • Duck Duck Goose
  • Dodge ball
  • Ping Pong
  • Capture the Flag
  • Tennis
  • Kickball
  • Follow the Leader
  • Red Rover
  • Hide and seek
  • Obstacle course
  • Rock climbing
  • Playground play at a park
  • Hopscotch
  • Four Square
  • Croquet
  • Badminton
  • Pickle Ball
  • Hiking
  • Water play
  • Sandbox play
  • Biking
  • Yoga
  • Horseshoes
  • Beanbag Toss