Keeping Learning Fun with Participant Choice

My new book, Physical Literacy on the Move, helps teachers develop the physical literacy of their students. In this blog post, which I originally shared with Human Kinetics Europe, details the importance participant choice has on children’s learning.


Physical literacy learning that integrates participant choice provides children with the opportunity to take ownership over their learning. It also encourages engagement in learning that matters most to them.

There are times when children and youths can make choices around personal interests or pursue learning options based on their specific needs.  The limitations of choice vary based on the specific participant, the game or activity, the facility and equipment available. As well as, other factors specific to each participants learning style. Educators act as facilitators while the children make choices around their activity/game groupings, equipment, game setup and adaptations to optimize the challenge and maximize the participation and fun.

Through the learning process, flexibility is key to creating a learning environment where participants have the opportunity to experiment with personal choices in order to work at their optimal level of challenge. Many small games or drills should be occurring at once to maximize participation. Letting each group make their own choices provides participants of all skill levels the opportunity to have their personal needs met when learning together within the same activity space.

There are three ways educators can offer participant choice within their physical literacy programming.

Modify the equipment

Allow participants the chance to select the type, colour or size of equipment. This provides students with the opportunity to develop the same fundamental movement or sports skills. As well as, making accommodations for their own interests or needs.

Example: When working on developing an overhand throw, does the size or colour of the object (because maybe it’s not even a ball) matter?

Modify the playing area

Allow participants the chance to change up the distance of the playing area, distance from the target or even the size of net. It provides them with the opportunity to increase or decrease the challenge of the activity as well as increase or decrease the physical activity intensity level.

Example: Beginning level participants, who are newly learning a fundamental movement or sports skill, might find value in a small activity area, decreasing the space to travel and a number of movement or sports skills required to travel through space.

Modify the rules

Allow participants the chance to select the scoring scheme. This can involve how many passes need to occur before a point is scored, or the number of steps each participant is allowed to take.

Example: High level participants might choose a point scoring scheme that favours more challenging skills in a game requiring aim and accuracy versus simply participation or getting the object in the area of a target.

Regardless of the physical literacy learning experience, the educator should maintain a focus on participant choice, helping to create a meaningful learning environment where the needs and interests of all participants matter while being active and learning together.

Featuring over 120 games and activities, my book, Physical Literacy on the Move is available to buy from for $32.95. 

A Stress Free #BackToSchool With #KidsYoga

Back to school has come and gone, and hopefully those daily routines that form success have been established – making lunches the night before, laying out the next days clothes, but what about some before bed yoga?

Why Kids Yoga?

While the activities below have many benefits for the parent (mindfulness, breathing awareness, strength and flexibility), it’s important to remember that kids yoga has a slightly different focus, but should have equally (or more) fun!

Keep these four areas in mind when leading a family practice.

  1. Mindfulness: Consider sitting or lying comfortably together and making thoughtful connections to personal and interpersonal skills such as being a friend, communication skills, coping and management skills, as well as character development.
  2. Breathing awareness: Being aware of their breathing and using breath can help children to relax, such as before a quiz, sporting game, or performance. Energizing breaths can also be used to help children wake up and be alert.
  3. The development of physical literacy: This includes helping our children to learn to move with competence, confidence and creativity in a variety of setting. Children who are physically literate have an awareness of the fundamental movement skills (those explored in yoga include balance and stability).
  4. Most importantly the focus should be on fun! Family yoga should provide opportunities, to laugh, celebrate, and be connected as a family. Hold hands, touch feet, and giggle lots!

It’s important to model and share our love of movement, as we know through research on physical literacy, that active children grow to be active adults. So let’s move together!

Story Telling Fun

Story telling is one of my favourite ways to support kiddies doing yoga. Whether it’s acting out a favourite book while you read along or making up stories as they go, there are many connections that can be made to promote (language) literacy and physical literacy. Try some of these ideas with your kids!

Elephant Trunk Breathing.


Traditionally promotes increased energy. Stand with feet hips width apart. Inhale through your nose reaching your arms (trunk) above your head, on the exhale, release the air through your month as you stretch your trunk down towards your feet.

Parent prompts: As you inhale, how high can you reach your trunk? How close to the floor can you stretch your trunk as you breathe out?

Tree Pose.


From Mountain Pose, stand on one foot (rooting it into the ground) and place the other foot near the ankle, below the knee on the calf, or above the knee on the thigh (avoid placing the foot on the knee) and keep your hands on your waist in palm to palm in front of the chest. Once stable, stretch both arms (branches) up to the sky, maybe even together above your head.

Parent prompts: What kind of tree are you? What happens to your tree when it gets windy? Can you move in the wind?

Downward Facing Dog.


From table top position (on hands and knees), curl your toes under and lift your hips up and back. Stretch your arms and legs long as you try to reach your heels towards the floor.

Parent prompts: What kind of dog are you? What’s your dog’s name? What healthy snacks does your dog like to eat? Can your dog stretch high on his/her toes? What does your bark sound like?



Sit on the floor with knees bent and feet close to your pelvis. Open your knees (opening the wings of your butterfly). Use your peace fingers to hold on to your big toes. Keep the outside of your feet pressing into the floor.

Parent prompts: Where is your butterfly going? Can you flap your wings slow? Can you flap your wings fast? Can you squeeze your wings tight to your body? Can you open your wings wide?



Sit on the floor with knees bent in front of the body and hands beside your seat. Engage the core and lift legs 45-50 degrees relative to the floor, keeping knees bent so shins are parallel to the floor, hands can hold back of knees (making the shape of a boat). If available, consider stretching the legs long and hover hands along the side of the body with core engaged while balancing on your seat.

Parent prompts: Can you row your boat? (Move arms along side of body as if paddling) Can you hold the pose while we sing “Row Row Row Your Boat”? Use this pose while reading/watching/listening to “The Own And The Pussy Cat.”



Face each other with a slight bend in the knee and feet touch. Legs can either by straight or open in a straddle (If partners legs are longer or shorter consider touching anywhere. E.g., feet to knees). Lean forwards to grasp hands (a larger bend in the knee might be needed). Gently pull your partners hands as you lean back. After 10-15 seconds switch and let your partner pull you forward.

Parent prompts: Where do you feel the stretch? How long can you reach your body? Can you reach your stretch right out of the top of your head? Consider chanting “See” as you lean one way and “Saw” as you lean the other.

How do you get active as a family? Let me know in the comments!

Tune in to CH Morning Live on Monday September 28th to see this sequence in action! Missed this mornings show? Watch it here!

What to Pack For An Active Back to School!

Thanks to ParticipACTION, it’s know easy to know what to pack for an active and fun back to school experience.

Low res Backpack Infographic - EN

There are lots of great ideas in this cute infographic, but I love the idea of a ball. So simple and cannot only lead to active play, but also social interactions. Great for students entering a new school or class. The use of two little words “wanna play?” can lead to new friendships and an active recess.

In order to make this back pack even better, I would suggest the addition of a reusable water bottle. As both a classroom and phys.ed. teacher I believe it is so much easier for students to stay connected to the learning when they have everything they need at their fingers tips, including hydration.

As we enter the final weekend of summer, I wish students, teachers, and parents an awesome start to school week one!