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The ABC’s of Physical Literacy

At the Victoria Foundation we care about all children and realize that the ABC’s are not found only in books. That’s why we decided to make an innovative physical literacy program the first recipient of a proactive grant from our new Smart & Caring Community Fund

Inspired by a challenge from the Governor General of Canada, David Johnston, many of Canada’s community foundations have established Smart & Caring Community Funds  to reflect and respond to priorities in their communities. 

Using the Victoria’s Vital Signs®  report findings as a starting point, our foundation turned our attention to children in our community. 

The B.C.-based Childhood Obesity Foundation reports that in 1978 15 per cent of children were overweight or obese. By 2004, 29 per cent of adolescents had unhealthy weights. According to the B.C. Medical Association, over half of Canadian children and teens are not active enough for healthy growth and development; approximately 26 per cent are overweight or obese. A March 2011 Ministry of Health Services report says 51,000 B.C. children (seven per cent of those aged two to 17 years) were classified as obese and 138,500 (20 per cent) were overweight.

One cause of these startling statistics can be boiled down to children not getting enough physical activity each day and engaging in activities that don’t burn many calories – such as watching television and playing video games. While the ability to make healthy living choices – for both children and adults – is influenced by a range of complex and interacting factors, the Victoria Foundation realized that this was an area where we could have a positive impact.

The foundation turned to the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence  (PISE)  in Victoria. 
One of the programs offered by PISE is the ABC’s of Physical Literacy. The skills learned through the ABC’s program – agility, balance, coordination and speed – are the building blocks of movement. These skills help children build confidence in their physical abilities, allowing them to be involved successfully in a number of different types of healthy activities as they develop - and hopefully stay active for life!

Western Canada’s oldest registered non-profit society, The Cridge Centre for the Family , was a good fit for the launch of this program as it has day care, pre-school and after-school programs, as well as summer day camps.

Beginning in mid-April 2012 and running for 12 weeks, approximately 175 children ages three to 12 received a 45-60 minute session each week at The Cridge Centre.  Using only a simple Run, Jump, Throw kit, the instructors engage the children in age-appropriate activities and games that build their skills and confidence.  The youngest age group learns to throw, run, jump, kick and catch through play and exploration.  The next age group learns these same skills and participates in games. The activities for the eldest children emphasize basic movement skills while incorporating specific sport skills. Through these sessions, not only do the children acquire abilities they will have for life but the caregivers at the Cridge Centre learn techniques to use on an on-going basis. ‘Training the trainer’ is an added benefit of this pairing.

Giving young children physical skills and confidence that will establish a foundation for lifelong health and well-being is a smart – and caring – thing to do!

This article is an extract of one written by Louise MacDonald, Director, Governance and Executive Operations at the Victoria Foundation, for the summer edition of Scrivener magazine. Louise coordinates the Victoria Foundation’s Smart & Caring project and can be reached at 250-381-5532 or louise@victoriafoundation.bc.ca

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