Parents on the Concept of Physical Literacy: What do they know, what do they do, and what do they want?

See insightful new research around parents understanding, attitudes and knowledge of Physical Literacy and the importance of fostering that development at home - by Simpson, A., Jackson, B., Thornton, A. L., Rosenberg, M., Ward, B., Roberts, P., ... & Budden, T. (2024)


It is well known that parents play a critical role in supporting children’s physical activity participation. Despite this much of the research in the physical literacy area has been directed to date at school-based opportunities for children’s physical literacy development with much less attention devoted toward studying the other environments through which physical literacy may be fostered, such as at home.

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The study aimed to understand how Australian parents perceive and apply the concept of physical literacy with their children. Developing physical literacy is seen as crucial for children to engage in physical activity throughout their lives. Researchers interviewed 18 parents, providing them with an information sheet on physical literacy before the interview. The results showed that most parents were not familiar with the term "physical literacy" before the study. Even when they were provided with information about it, many still didn't fully understand the concept. However, despite this lack of awareness, parents generally supported the holistic nature of physical literacy that goes beyond just physical skills, such as social, psychological, and cognitive aspects.

“Everyone knows STEM, everyone knows, you know, science, technology, engineering, and math. Whereas, physical literacy, I think, is probably becoming more of an important part. But the advertising part and getting out there to the communities probably hasn’t been completed as thorough as it could have.”


Findings and conclusion

The study raised questions about whether it's enough for parents to support individual aspects of physical literacy separately or if there's value in taking a holistic approach. Some experts argue that all aspects of physical literacy are interconnected and should be addressed together. However, it's unclear whether parents should focus on understanding the concept as a whole or just concentrate on specific aspects.

The study also found that parents' beliefs about responsibility played a significant role in how they supported physical activity in their children. Some parents felt responsible for their children's physical literacy, while others didn't see it as their primary responsibility and thought it was something that could be addressed in the school setting. These beliefs could affect how parents engage with efforts to promote physical literacy.    

Overall, the study provides insights into how Australian parents perceive and apply physical literacy concepts with their children. It suggests that more efforts are needed to ensure parents are informed about effective ways to support their children's physical literacy, given their crucial role in shaping their children's behaviours.

“I want to set him up properly, you know, for his adult life, because as you get older and you’re really busy, bad patterns and bad habits sort of creep in. So, to set yourself up on a path of actually staving off those bad habits I think is a good thing.”

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See more of the latest research on FMS and physical literacy>