Tai Chi for Kids
  • children doing tai chiDoes your child shy away from competitive forms of exercise?
  • Do they have difficulty maintaining focus?
  • Would improvements in ‘calmness and self discipline’ be welcome?
  • Or are you simply searching for screen free kids activities?

Then tai chi just might be the answer.

Dr Paul Lam, physician and world leader in the field of tai chi has spent the last two years developing tai chi programs for children. A devotee of the art himself for over 30 years, Dr Lam’s programs have been used by the Arthritis Foundation of USA and Australia, Arthritis Care of UK, Diabetes Australia and are well respected in universities and hospitals around the world. Dr Lam believes this ancient art can improve the general health of our children in many areas; weight loss, co-ordination, flexibility, emotional balance and ability to focus.

So what is tai chi?

It is exercise that involves the body and the mind. You move almost every part of your body and exercise the body’s internal structure using mind control and focus.

Tai Chi involves a number of so- called forms (sometimes also called 'sets') which consist of a sequence of movements. Many of these movements are originally derived from the martial arts (with origins from the natural movements of animals and birds.) They are performed slowly, softly and gracefully with smooth transitions between each.

What are the benefits of introducing children to tai chi?

Posture

Tai chi focuses on correct posture and balance. Our children are spending increasing periods of time sitting down. From classrooms to lounge rooms and computer rooms, the seated position dominates and postural problems in young children are on the rise. Professor Leon Straker from Curtin University reported to the National Conference of Physiotherapists last year that an ‘epidemic of global proportions’ in spine, neck and back problems was imminent as a result of increased sedentary activity in our young. Tai chi can help address this and prevent long term health problems.

Focus

Tai chi can improve a child’s ability to focus. Western lifestyles focus heavily on ‘doing’ where Eastern thinking focuses more on ‘being.’

Concentration has become a casualty of busy lifestyles with the ability to ‘stay in the moment’ becoming increasingly difficult.

I can personally testify from my experience in the classroom, to shortened concentration spans in children which become an obstacle to learning. A child’s ability to focus and remember is a powerful learning tool. As the movements in tai chi have to be memorized it plays a pivotal role in improving memory and focus.

A piece of the ‘quiet.’

Our children are surrounded by noise: tv, videos, ipods, music, mobiles- often occurring simultaneously. Relaxation is constantly compromised. Tai chi offers a mental haven from extraneous influences because in order to participate successfully you have to shut out the external in order to master the moves.

Inner Harmony

Tai chi is gentle. It is a combination of movement and meditation that has a calming effect. Children can experience stress and pressure today on both the school front and home front. Many are not equipped to deal with it. Tai chi promotes inner harmony and relaxation. Children who are relaxed and balanced get more out of learning and life in general. “The people who teach tai chi to children report that not only are the children calmer, but the parents and teachers find it similarly therapeutic,” comments Dr Lam.

Dr Lam sees tai chi as a useful tool in everyday life. An example of this occurred with a colleague of his, Cathy, who is a fitness leader in the US. Cathy’s five year old was overhead talking to her three year old, who was on the verge of having a tantrum. The five year old said, “try some tai chi breathing for a minute” and once the three year old began the breathing, the tantrum subsided.

Exercise/Diet

Any-one who has marveled at a toddler effortlessly putting their toe in their mouth, under stands the word flexibility. Yet our sedentary lifestyles continue to rob us of it. Tai chi exercises inner organs in a gentle way.

Diet is related to what is happening in the mind. If tai chi can help children cope with stress, it can reduce the desire to ‘comfort eat’ and keep weight under control.

Tai Chi has been embraced by the Diabetes Foundation of Australia. With the incidence of type 2 diabetes in adolescence rising at an alarming rate, we know that a combination of exercise and diet can help. Tai Chi can be a worthwhile investment in our children’s future health.

Gender

Boys in particular love to learn through action. A book free, desk free, pen and paper free learning environment is highly attractive to boys. Tai chi teaches children to remember, focus and think through movement. Add to the mix that Tai Chi has its origins in martial arts and you have an extra draw card.

Non Competitive

Tai chi is a great alternative to competitive sport. Many children shy away from organized sport because it requires good co-ordination, strength, speed and a competitive spirit. Children who are daunted by these challenges can be drawn to the gentle movements of tai chi which deliver similar benefits in exercise and health without the challenge of competition.

Screen Free Alternative

Screens are part and parcel of everyday life, however they demand very little input from the child who then becomes a passive learner.

An increase in movement based activities is one way of addressing the balance between passive and active activities. Tai Chi can be practiced anywhere, anytime - indoors or outdoors.

Tai chi is aligned with nature. The teaching of tai chi will hopefully bring people closer to nature. Nature providing an opportunity to nurture: a good move!

 
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