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Movement Experiences for Children
KIN 366
Instructor: Dr. Shannon S.D. Bredin
Office Hours:
Class Schedule:
Important Course Pages
Lecture Notes
Course Discussion

Active Start is the first stage of the Long Term Athlete Development model that provides the basic foundation for Canadian Sport and the Canadian Sport for Life Plan (Canadian Sport Centres, 2013). This first stage of the model includes males and females between the chronological ages of nought and six. The Active Start phase combines all topics relating to physical activity for children under the age of six and summarizes all the movement experiences and goals that should be happening during these early childhood years. The goal of the Active Start phase is to introduce children to physical activity and help children learn fundamental movements while linking them together with play (Canadian Sport Centres, 2013).

The Long Term Athlete Development Plan

The Long Term Athlete Development plan (LTAD) consists of seven stages that focus on the general framework of athlete development with reference to an individual’s growth, maturation, development, trainability and sport system integration (Canadian Sport Centres, 2013). The stages include Active Start, Fundamentals, Learning to Train, Training to Train, Training to Compete, Training to Win and Active for Life (Canadian Sport Centres, 2013). The LTAD is based on a variety of peer reviewed literature, global sports models and scientific research in the fields of pediatric exercise science, exercise sociology and nutrition (Canadian Sport Centres, 2013). The LTAD is written for coaches and administrative sport leaders. However, the concepts involved apply to all those who participate in activity or sport. The LTAD recognizes the cognitive, emotional, and psycho-social development of children and integrates these factors into the stages within the model. The LTAD also recognizes that additional information may be required for individuals with a disability and has modified the model for those individuals (Canadian Sport Centres, 2013).

Benefits of Active Start Physical Activity

Physical activity is important for healthy childhood development and allows children to develop cognitive, emotional and psycho-social skills as well as physical skill (Canadian Sport Centres, 2013). It can do so by enhancing the development of brain function, coordination, social skills, gross and fine motor skills, emotions, leadership and imagination (Canadian Sport Centres, 2013). Participation in physical activity in the Active Start also helps motivate children to engage in physical activity and active play at an early age by increasing socialization, preventing boredom and increasing freedom (Brockman, Jago & Fox, 2011). These motivating factors help to increase a child’s efficacy and give them the tools and motivation to participate in physically active behaviour later in life (Brockman, Jago & Fox, 2011). Physical activity also helps children to build confidence and positive self-esteem, build strong bones and muscles, improve flexibility, develop posture and balance, improve fitness, improve sleep, and promote a healthy weight (Canadian Sport Centres, 2013). Finally, one of the most important benefits of Active Start is that it provides the opportunity for children to learn how to move skillfully and enjoy being active (Canadian Sport Centres, 2013).

Active Start and Active Play

One of the key points that is emphasized in the Active Start phase is that children should be participating in active play. Using the term active play instead of physical activity for children in the Active Start phase is important because it emphasizes the different needs of children at this age when compared to adolescents or adults (Burdette & Whitaker, 2005). The word play suggests unstructured active fun, while activity or exercise suggests structured aerobic workouts which can be deter parents from encouraging their children to participate in that behaviour (Burdette & Whitaker, 2005). Active play involves physical activity that utilizes the body’s main muscle groups. It can be structured or unstructured although it should be vigorous and include a wide variety of activities and games, as well as encouraging children to be outside whenever possible (Canadian Sport for Life, 2011). Active play encourages not only healthy physical development but the concept of play allows children to explore their environment and learn from different experiences and interactions which aid in healthy cognitive and emotional development (Berk, 2012). Active play is also extremely important for children with disabilities although some activities may have to be modified (Canadian Sport for Life, 2011). During the Active Start years toys can be extremely useful in promoting movement and active play and a variety of locomotions, statics, and sending and receiving skills should be encouraged (Canadian Sport for Life, 2011).

Recommended Active Play for Children in the Active Start Phase

Active Play for Children 0-6 Months

Play at this age is simple and should encourage children to seek out toys and activities that aid in the development of balance and coordination (Canadian Sport for Life, 2011). Similarly children should be encouraged to seek toys that are just out of reach to encourage reaching movements and environmental exploration (Canadian Sport for Life, 2011).

Active Play for Children 7-12 Months

After six months children should be encouraged to participate in play that helps them develop bodily support. Children should be trying to hold themselves in different static shapes to improve muscle development (Canadian Sport for Life, 2011). Once they are able to hold themselves to participate in play that encourages them to react and move to different objects. Finally, play that encourages rhythmic movements or independent movement with different toys is important to achieve future motor milestones (Canadian Sport for Life, 2011).

Active Play for Children 1-3 Years

It is important that play during these years emphasizes fun in order to help develop a positive perception of physical activity and physical behaviour (Canadian Sport for Life, 2011). It is also important that play takes place outside and is creative and includes variety in order to constantly stimulate and keep children engaged (Canadian Sport for Life, 2011). Finally it is important at this stage to make sure that kids participate in unstructured play and be creative on their own as long as they are supervised and safe (Canadian Sport for Life, 2011).

Active Play for Children 3-6 Years

Keeping children engaged in physical activity is important during these years so there is not only focus on unstructured fun physical activity but also skill building (Canadian Sport for Life, 2011). Children will start to develop fundamental movement skills at this age and it is a good time to encourage organized sport to help develop cognitive skills such as following the rules of games and activities (Canadian Sport for Life, 2011).

Active Start and Fundamental Movement Skills

One of the key components to Active Start, especially in the later years of the phase, is for children to start developing fundamental movement skills. Fundamental movement skills are the building blocks for children to participate confidently and competently in sports (Coaching Association of Canada, 2011). Fundamental movement skills can be developed in the water, on snow or ice, in the air while jumping or on land (Coaching Association of Canada, 2011). Some of these fundamental movement skills include walking, running, hopping, skipping, catching, trapping, throwing and striking (Coaching Association of Canada, 2011). One of the primary objectives of Active Start is help children learn these fundamental movement skills so that they can be proficient at them while participating in sports during later life (Canadian Sport Centres, 2013).

Active Start and Physical Literacy

The development of active play and fundamental movement skills for children during the Active Start phase helps to foster what is known as physical literacy. Physical literacy is described as the ability for an individual to move with confidence and competence within their environment and during physical activity and sport participation (Whitehead, 2010). The most important aspect of physical literacy is providing the building blocks that are necessary for children to have a positive sport experience and remain active for life (Coaching Association of Canada, 2011).

Introducing Physical Literacy into Active Start

Physical literacy is a key component to the Active Start phase of the LTAD. The teaching of physical literacy includes identifying the intrinsic motivators associated with learning to be competent at physical skills (Whitehead, 2010). It provides a clear goal for individuals to work towards through physical activity as well as emphasizing the importance of physical activity within schools and community centres. It also refutes the notion that physical activity is simply of recreational value and emphasizes the importance of participation in physical activity by all individuals (Whitehead, 2010). Finally it identifies the significant roles that adults and caregivers play in teaching physical activity and highlights their importance during the Active Start years (Whitehead, 2010).

The Role of the Adult in Implementing Active Start Physical Activity

Parents have an important role in their child’s development. This is because of the way they interact with them and the way that children mimic their parents’ behaviour patterns and pick up on their attitudes towards certain activities (Berk, 2012). Parent inactivity is an extremely strong predictor of child inactivity which results in lifelong physically inactive behaviour and related health issues (Fogleholm et al., 1999). As a result parents should be aware of this and model positive physical behaviour for their children (Canadian Sport for Life, 2011). Parents have the opportunity to establish positive physical activity patterns in their children by allowing for fun creative play and differing movement experiences (Canadian Sport for Life, 2011). By participating in activities with their children, parents also foster stronger relationships with their child which has a positive influence on a child’s emotional development (Berk, 2012). Temple et al. (2009) encourage parents to promote activity in their children because they found that of children that were in an environment that afforded movement participation 49% of children were still sedentary for more than an hour every day. However, there are times where it is also important for parents to simply supervise and let their children be creative and active through unstructured play (Canadian Sport for Life, 2011).

Active Start Tips for Parents and Caregivers

  • Provide structured play for at least 30 minutes per day for children under 3 years of age and at least 60 minutes per day for children of preschool age (Canadian Sport Centres, 2013)
  • Allow children to participate in unstructured play for at least 60 minutes per day. Children in the Active Start phase should not be sedentary for more than 60 minutes at a time unless they are sleeping (Canadian Sport Centres, 2013)
  • Provide physical activity every day despite weather conditions and encourage play outside (Canadian Sport Centres, 2013)
  • Allow children to develop fundamental movement skills that build toward more complex movement skills in order to help foster confidence and competence within a physical activity environment (Canadian Sport Centres, 2013)
  • Ensure that games for children during this phase are non-competitive and promote participation rather than winning and losing (Canadian Sport Centres, 2013)
  • Ensure that all children including those with a disability are able to participate equally and benefit equally from the physical activity participation experience (Canadian Sport Centres, 2013)

Barriers to Active Start Physical Activity

Most of the barriers that inhibit the participation of children in Active Start physical activities include constraints that are developed by parents or caregivers (Brockman, Jago & Fox, 2011). Many of the barriers that are developed by parents arise from notions of safety, rules and other social fears associated with active play or physical activity participation outside. These may include worries over an unsafe neighbourhood or fears of children injuring themselves while playing on the playground (Brockman, Jago & Fox, 2011). Similarly, environmental issues such as traffic and weather may influence parents’ willingness to let their children participate in active play (Brockman, Jago & Fox, 2011). One of the most common barriers to physical activity participation today is a preference amongst children to participate in sedentary activities such as watching television or playing video games (Gorden-Larsen et al., 2004). Watching television allows parents to feel safe about their children’s environment rather than outdoor active play (Gorden-Larsen et al., 2004). There are other barriers to Active Start physical activity such as a perceived lack of recreational facilities or resources to participate in recreational physical activity programs. Finally, low caregiver motivation to encourage children to be physically active can play a major role in restricting physical activity (Gorden-Larsen et al., 2004).

Shortcomings of the LTAD Model and Active Start

Age Classification

The LTAD is a model that focuses on chronological age rather than the developmental age of each participant (Canadian Sport Centres, 2013). This is particularly important during the Active Start phase because children are developing extremely rapidly and reaching their motor milestones at different ages (Berk, 2012). There are many factors that may affect a child’s development during early years such as genetic factors which can speed up or delay the acquisition of motor milestones, as well as disability, injury, environmental factors, socio-economic factors and cultural factors (Berk, 2012). Child development is a unique and complex process so by classifying the Active Start phase by chronological age, the LTAD fails to recognize that some children may move through the phases at different times depending on their developmental age.

Correct Teaching of Fundamental Movement Skills

Another major issue of the LTAD model is that fundamental movement skills and sports skills may not be taught properly to children. This means that one of the goals of the Active Start phase, to teach physical literacy, will never be reached (Canadian Sport Centres, 2013). The consequence of this is that children will have poor movement patterns and lack confidence within a physical activity environment and ultimately stop participating in sports and physical activity (Canadian Sport Centres, 2013).

LTAD Target Audience

The LTAD is not taught to parents. By failing to highlight the importance of all the components of Active Start such as active play, fundamental movement skills and physical literacy, parents will not be able to encourage their children to develop positive physical activity habits. This will ultimately leave their children to develop poor movement patterns and experiences (Canadian Sport Centres, 2013).

Sufficient Evidence

Finally, many of the benefits that the LTAD claims to make lack sufficient scientific evidence due to the complexity of sport performance due to the many contributing psychological and physiological factors (Ford et al., 2011). The most important principle that the LTAD and Active Start phase fail to recognize is the importance of individualization when it comes to addressing physical activity in all individuals including children (Ford et al., 2011). The LTAD and the phases within the model have advanced coaches and practitioner’s knowledge of movement development and athlete development. However, due to the complex nature of this topic and each individual’s development pattern it is difficult to create one model that accurately describes each child’s experience (Ford et al., 2011).


  1. Berk, L. (2012). Infants and children: Prenatal through middle childhood (seventh ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.
  2. Brockman, R., Jago, R., & Fox, K.R. (2011). Children’s active play: self-reported motivators, barriers and facilitators. BMC Public Health, 11(461), 1-7.
  3. Burdette, H.M., & Whitaker, R.C. (2005). Resurrecting free play in young children: looking beyond physical fitness and fatness to attention, affiliation and affect. American Medical Association, 159, 46-50.
  4. Canadian Sport Centres. (2012). Canadian sport for life: Long term athlete development. The Government of Canada
  5. Coaching Association of Canada. (2011). NCCP fundamental movement skills: Improving children’s lives through physical literacy. National Coaching Certification Program.
  6. Fogelholm M., Nuutinen, O., Pasanen, M., Myohanen, E., & Saatela, T. (1999). Parent-child relationship of physical activity patterns and obesity. Journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, 23(12), 1262-1268.
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  8. Gorden-Larsen, P., Griffiths, P., Bentley, M.E., Ward, D.S., Kelsey, K., Shields, K.,& Ammerman, A. (2004). Barriers to physical activity: qualitative data on caregiver-daughter perceptions and practices. American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 27(3), 218-223. DOI:
  9. Temple, V.A., Naylor, P., Rhodes, R.E., Higgins, J.W. (2009). Physical activity of children in family care. NRC Research Press, 34: 794-798.
  10. Whitehead, M. (2010). Physical literacy: Throughout the lifecourse. New York, NY: Routledge.