Sport for Life



Physical Literacy Learning Lab

Physical literacy develops a “movement vocabulary” of fundamental movement skills and fundamental sport skills. These skills are the basis for moving with competence and confidence in every kind of activity environment:

  • on the ground, both indoor and outdoor
  • in and on water
  • on snow and ice
  • in the air                                                         

What is physical literacy? 

"Physical literacy is 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, May 2014

Physical activity is a lot more fun if an individual is physically literate. If we want children to be active for life, our coaches, recreation professionals and health practitioners need access to a wide range of resources that can help people become physically literate.
Q & A Corner
Expert answers on what physical literacy it is and why it matters.

Choose a question category:

What is physical literacy?

Physical literacy is the motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge and understanding to value and take responsibility for engagement in physical activities for life (International Physical Literacy Association, May 2014). Physical literacy:

  • is an inclusive concept accessible to all
  • represents a unique journey for each individual
  • can be cultivated and enjoyed through a range of experiences in different environments
  • needs to be valued and nurtured throughout life
  • contributes to the development of the whole person.

(Canadian Physical Literacy Consensus Statement, June 2015)

Physical literacy is when kids have developed the skills, confidence, and love of movement to be physically active for life

What are the components of physical literacy?
  • Physical competence
  •  Confidence
  •  Motivation
  •  Knowledge and understanding
  • Engagement in physical activities for life
What kind of environment supports physical literacy opportunities?

Quality instruction (guidance, supervision) by trained and caring adults. Structured and unstructured experiences that are developmentally appropriate for participants.

What is the difference between Fundamental Movement Skills (FMS) and physical literacy? What is their relationship?

FMS describes the physical competence of physical literacy – through the acquisition of physical competence, confidence is obtained. When FMS are acquired in a quality instructional setting, participants are motivated to be physically active in all areas of their lives.


What does the physical literacy journey look like?

What physical literacy assessment tool should I use?

Refer to the Physical Literacy Assessment Tools summary to determine what tools will be best for you.

Why is physical literacy important?

Learning to move is as important as learning to read and write (Be Fit for Life, 2015). Since the 1970s, movement in our lives has diminished for many reasons: changes in the workplace, changes to the family unit and increased technology are examples. Movement is often viewed as the requirement for becoming fit, losing fat and helping athletes win medals. This type of movement is most commonly called physical activity, exercise or training. While the evidence that physical activity is vital for healthy functioning and well-being, the full scope of its value is rarely appreciated. Bailey et al (2013) describe the Human Capital Model as taking "a broader and more inclusive view of physical activity - one that takes on the urgent health agenda, but that also locates that agenda within a holistic view of human development.” The paper offers the view that physical activity is an investment capable of delivering valuable returns in the following areas:

  1. Physical Capital: The direct benefits to physical health and positive influences on healthy behaviours.
  2. Emotional Capital: The psychological and mental health benefits associated with physical activity.
  3. Individual Capital: The elements of a person’s character (e.g., life skills, interpersonal skills, values) that accrue through participation in physically active play, sports, and other forms of physical activity.
  4. Social Capital: The outcomes that arise when networks between people, groups, organizations, and civil society are strengthened because of participation in group-based physical activity, play, or competitive sports.
  5. Intellectual Capital: The cognitive and educational gains that are increasingly linked to participation in physical activity.
  6. Financial Capital: Gains in terms of earning power, job performance, productivity, and job attainment, alongside reduced costs of health care and absenteeism/presenteeism (i.e. lower productivity among those who are “present”) linked to physical activity.
Where can physical literacy be developed?

In both structured and unstructured settings for all people. In the early years, quality instruction supported by caring adults is critical.

Where can I find resources to support physical literacy programming?

Our physical literacy learning lab offers a large selection of resources designed to support your physcial literacy programming. Our content collections are a great place to start:

Where can I find programs that provide an environment that supports physical literacy?

The following collections can help you find resources to support your physcial literacy goals:

Where can I find more information about what physical literacy is?

Search our collections for more information about the definition and value of physical literacy.


Where can I find professional development or additional training opportunities around physical literacy?

The following organizations offer valuable information on various aspects of Physical Literacy:

How Can I assess a child's physical literacy journey?

There are 4 tools commonly used to assess physical literacy:

These assessment protocols are largely focused on the acute physical competence.

How can physical literacy be incorporated into school, sport and community settings?

Community or regional groups such as PLAY (Physical Literacy and You) groups (e.g. Alberta PLAY groups), community engagement using collective impact approach, Physical Literacy for Communities and more. Contact [email protected] to learn more about activities in your region and best practices across the country.

For more information visit

How can I support physical literacy development?

By providing opportunities for children, youth and adults to have quality movement experiences in whatever setting they are in.

How can physical literacy be developed?

To develop physical literacy, the environment and the opportunity for physical literacy have to be created. At all ages, movement needs to be valued. Let children play without adult obstruction. Give children the gift of falling and failing alongside the encouragement to pick themselves up and try it again. Opportunities to be physically active in both structured and unstructured settings across the lifespan must be supported by all live, learn, work and play spaces.

How do I create an environment that supports physical literacy development?

Environments that support the physical literacy journey provide opportunities to explore and learn basic motor skills in the locomotor, non-locomotor and object manipulation areas in the following indoor and outdoor settings -- on the ground, in/on/under water, in the air, on ice/snow.