What is PLAY?

PLAY stands for Physical Literacy Assessment for Youth. It’s a series of physical literacy assessment tools that were developed by Canadian Sport for Life (CS4L) to determine the level of an individual’s physical literacy.

PLAY comprises a suite of tools:

PLAYfun is used by a trained professional* to assess a child in 18 fundamental skills/tasks, such as running, throwing, kicking and balance.

PLAYbasic is a simplified version of PLAYfun that can be administered quickly by a trained professional in movement analysis to provide a snapshot of a child’s level of physical literacy.

PLAYself is used by children and youth to assess their own physical literacy.

PLAYparent is used by parents of school-aged children to assess their child’s level of physical literacy.

PLAYcoach is used by coaches, physiotherapists, athletic therapists, exercise professionals and recreation professionals to record their perceptions of a child’s level of physical literacy.

PLAYinventory is a form used to record and track a child’s leisure-time activities throughout the year.

PLAYself, PLAYparent and PLAYcoach are not skill assessments; they are forms used to supplement the skill assessments, PLAYbasic and PLAYfun.

*Trained professionals: coaches, physiotherapists, athletic therapists, exercise professionals, and individuals trained in movement analysis.

Dr. Dean Kriellaars and the physical literacy movement

If there’s someone in this country who knows physical literacy, it’s Dr. Dean Kriellaars. But the exercise physiologist doesn’t just know it – he advocates tirelessly for it because of the positive impact it can have on our society. “It’s as important as reading and writing skills, and the ability to work with numbers,” he said during a presentation at the 2013 Canadian Sport for Life National Summit. “Physical literacy is the fundamental basis for developing participation in society.”

As Associate Professor in the Department of Physical Therapy, School of Medical Rehabilitation in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Manitoba, Dr. Dean works in rehabilitation and high-performance sport. He has travelled across Canada, volunteering his time to speak with health care professionals, coaches, trainers, and educators about physical literacy and healthy lifestyles, and has pioneered programs that have been adopted nationwide.

As a country, we pride ourselves on being a leader in terms of literacy levels. Developing literate children is a massive part of school curriculum. But Dr. Dean questions how we can be so focused on literacy, and yet hardly acknowledge the need for physical literacy.

“Physical literacy is as essential as literacy. Just take ‘physical’ out and it’s the same as literacy: that’s how valued this must be,” he said during his presentation.

Movement vocabulary is the repertoire of movement skills someone has. The more movement vocabulary they have, the more opportunity they have to participate in things. Movement fluency is the ability to execute a component of movement vocabulary with expertise. Physical proficiency refers to the ability to select the right type of movement repertoire and sequence it correctly in a certain environment. Finally, physical literacy is ability to demonstrate multiple proficiencies in many environments.

“Physical literacy is really no different,” he said. “You get some fundamental movements, you put them into sequences and tasks, you put it all together and you can to the padasha.”

But it’s one thing to recognize the issue; it’s an entirely different thing to act on it.

“We’re in a situation right now that this physical literacy movement, trying to engage the entire population – from a very sloth-like behaviour, very gluttonous society we live in – is going to be a very arduous task without surveillance showing that these initiatives work,” he said.

During another talk at the Summit, Dr. Dean explained how a child with a more developed movement vocabulary could engage in more movements, leading to more participation in society. By participating in society that child develops their social, emotional and physical wellbeing. “If you have all those pieces together, you have a healthy child,” he said. “Healthy children don’t get diseases and that’s a very important thing in this day and age – the prevention of lifelong disease, and giving a child the best capacity to work in a purposeful way in our society.”