How you can help kids – and parents – understand movement skills

How you can help kids – and parents – understand movement skills

Guest post by Jordan Mottl

In our physical literacy programs at the Richmond Olympic Oval, I get many questions from kids and parents about the activities we do. For example, how is a game like British Bulldog relevant to developing movement skills? And how is it relevant to athlete development in general?

We know that fundamental movement skills such as running, jumping, catching and throwing are best learned during childhood. The research shows that there are biological windows of trainability when kids are best suited to develop these skills. The fact is that many apparently “simple” games help to develop these very important movement skills – and just as importantly, they are fun.

The science and soul

Sometimes I refer to it as the science and the soul behind the programs. The soul of our physical literacy programming is fun. We want every child’s first interaction to be an enjoyable experience. But there is science behind the games and movements as well. So we might be playing a game like Dragon Tag, but really we’re working on accelerated hand and foot speed. This is important during that early window when kids are five to nine years old, which is the time when they can make the biggest gains in speed development.

So we try to break down the science and the soul of each program. Some parents and children are impressed by the science – the “why” behind what we are doing rather than the “what” of what we are doing – and this is how we try to make the information accessible for parents.

Using words that kids understand

Here are examples of some conversations I have with children who are having trouble visualizing the value of a game we might be playing. I’ll often use a similar approach with an eager parent.

Dragon tag

“This isn’t tag, this is change of direction and change of speed. This is agility, balance, coordination, and power! What do you think Kobe Bryant does every night? He plays Dragon Tag!”

Octopus (British Bulldog)

“This isn’t just a kids game! This is evasion and agility… What do you think Jon Cornish did all season? This is all-purpose yards!”

Animal walks

“This isn’t silly go-stop crab-walk! This is flexibility, mobility, and strength training. How do you think Rosie MacLennan trains in the off-season to win her trampoline gold medal?”


“This isn’t a kid’s game! This is the most important thing you’ll learn to be a pro athlete: the athletic stance and ready position, plus lateral movement!”

It might not sound scientific to explain our activities with these images, but it sure helps to give kids and parents a clear picture. Physical literacy is not an easy thing to explain, so we do everything in our power to make it simple and meaningful!

About Jordan

Jordan Mottl is the program manager of community sport at the Richmond Olympic Oval and is responsible for developing early physical literacy programs for children.


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