In the Shichida home practice guide, there is a relaxation exercise called the “energy balls” which you are required to do with your child before beginning the home practice activities. Although the manual mentions the exercise, there is no information on how it is done. I have also heard that they do the energy ball exercise in class, but until recently, I didn’t know how it was done. Then I stumbled across the following two Youtube videos which show two mothers doing the energy ball exercise with their children. The idea behind the energy ball exercise is to gather good energy and bring it into the body and at the same time remove bad energy. I think the videos show what you’re supposed to do pretty well so I’ll leave you to watch it.
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If you want to facilitate your child’s mental development, exercise and other physical recreation comes highly recommended. One of the sports I have been looking at recently is martial arts classes.
I contacted Rumen Wushu to enquire about martial arts classes for Gavin. Unfortunately, Mr Tan no longer teaches. Mr Tan’s classes were focused on the gentle/soft arts which is intended more for developing internal strength. It also involved Qigong. For a child, Mr Tan said that swimming was a good alternative for Qigong. He also quoted Bruce Lee saying “Yoga is swimming without water” so I guess yoga for kids is another good option to consider if martial arts classes aren’t working out. If I’m not mistaken, yoga for kids seems to be quite popular these days. I know that Gavin has done some yoga at Kinderland as he demonstrated the “tree pose” for me one afternoon after school.
Mr Tan also suggested Taekwondo as a good introduction to martial arts for children. His recommendation was to try Mr Low Taekwondo classes at the Royal Lake Club because Mr Low emphasises on forms which is not so dangerous. I honestly don’t know what that means, but it sounds good to me. According to Mr Tan, Mr Low does offer external classes so you don’t have to do them at the Lake Club.
Finally, sounding like a true martial arts sifu, Mr Tan said, “Internal arts are practised for fighting, but the secret is not to use it. Then why train it? It is like Mount Everest – why do men climb it? ‘To conquer themselves’ – Sir Edmund Hillary.” I’m not sure if Gavin would be able to appreciate that right now, but it certainly is worth considering.
If Yoga for kids sounds interesting, you can choose one of two options – look for classes or get resources to teach the basics at home. The latter might be a good option if you want to gauge how interested your child will be to take classes before committing to a course.
Here’s what I found on local yoga classes for children:
- For children 4-11 years old
- They only have one class a week scheduled for kids and it’s on Saturday at 4pm.
- Location: near Dataran Prima/Tropicana
- Contact: 016-2027417
- Location: Jalan Telawi 3, Bangsar
- Contact: 03-22823866
- For children 4 years and above
- RM250 for 12 lessons
- Location: Lucky Garden, Bangsar
- Contact: 03-20952520
- Location: Solaris, Mont Kiara
- Contact: 03-62030112
- Location: 58-2 Jalan Telawi, Bangsar Baru, 59100 Kuala Lumpur
- Contact: 012-215 2149 / 03-22835105 (Parveen Nair)
If you want to try Yoga for kids at home, there are plenty of resources you can use at home:
- Yoga Kids DVDs
- Yoga for Kids on Youtube
- Angel Bear Yoga
- If you have the Nintendo Wii at home, you can let your child try out the yoga program
- More Yoga for Kids Resources
Through all my research about early childhood development, I have noticed several themes cropping up time and time again. As a parent, you probably would not have had to do any reading to know this because they are all pretty common sense stuff. However, as common sense as it is, sometimes, it still gets lost along the way because of our hectic and fast-paced modern lifestyles that end up leaving us so physically exhausted and emotionally drained that it hurts to think sometimes.
Time and again, the following messages keep coming up:
- Too much screen time is bad.
- Reading is good.
- Movement is good for brain development.
As I said – common sense. So why do parenting books, research studies, and experts have to keep telling us this? It’s not as if we don’t already know it. I believe that when we get too advanced, we start to forget the basics. As an example, take a look at any subject you have ever studied so well until you were an “expert” at it… Yet, even as an “expert” we still make mistakes. When we examine those mistakes, we find that they are errors on such basic fundamentals that we find ourselves asking, “How ever did I make such a simple mistake?”
Back to the Basics…
1. Too much screen time is bad
Two hours maximum seems to be the general rule of thumb. So how did we end up parking the children in front of the TV (or computer) for too many hours a day? TV holds our children’s attention so well that it has often made a “good babysitter” for the times when we’ve needed to take a breather, put that load in the washing, take out the garbage, balance the cheque books, and the list goes on.
It’s like a line that’s been crossed. Once you’ve crossed it, it becomes easier and easier to cross. “I’ll just let him watch one program.” The next thing you know, he’s watching more than two hours a day and you can’t remember how it got that way.
Sometimes you just need an activity that can totally absorb your child for a while. What can you do? The answer varies from parent to parent depending on your child’s interests.
For me, this is one of the greatest benefits of having taught Gavin to read young. Sometimes, if I need to keep him busy while I’m handling Gareth, I can ask him to read his books and he will be holed up in his reading corner for a good half hour.
This has also been one of the benefits of having a child with an obsession. Gavin’s obsession has been Thomas and Friends ever since he was one year old. Although he prefers to play with someone, he is able to entertain himself playing with his trains.
Another activity that helps to totally absorb him is painting. I give him some paints and I let him go wild in the shower. I let him paint the walls but he has to clean off the paints after – which he also enjoys, not to mention it takes him at least another five minutes.
2. Reading is good
Duh! Of course it is. But I don’t think it is clear just how good it is because the benefits of reading have been under-rated. Just how does reading benefit our children? I’ve written about the some of the benefits of reading aloud to your child and how it helps your child learn to read in my previous posts – check it out if you haven’t already read them.
3. Movement is good for brain development
I think it goes without saying that physical activity and exercise are good for children. It’s good for anyone. But here are some other findings on movement:
- Crawling helps to develop the corpus callosum (the band of fibers in the brain connecting the left and right brains) – Doman.
- Children need to move to learn – TweedleWink.
- Brain Gym (which I will be writing more about soon) talks about specific movements that can help improve concentration, and physical, emotional and mental development.
So go grab a book and head out to the park.
If you’re starting with a newborn, you can begin your swimming lessons in the bath tub. The water should be deep enough to cover you up to your chest when sitting. If you’re starting with an older child, you may have to get an inflatable pool (something like the Swim Center Ocean Reef Pool for a younger child, or the Intex Easy Set 8-Foot-by-30-Inch Pool Set for an older child) or you can go straight to a swimming pool if you have access to one. We started in the swimming pool because we don’t have a bath tub at home.
Start with cuddling. This helps your baby to feel loved and secure. When ready, let your baby rest his chin on your shoulder and slowly begin to release him so that he is learning to balance on his own. Your arms are in readiness to catch him if he loses his balance so his head doesn’t go under. You can also let him practice holding himself up in the water by using your as the stabilising object.
Floating on the Back
Floating on the back is an excellent water survival skill to have because it gives your child something he can do which will keep him safe if he accidentally falls into water. However, most babies don’t like being on their backs and may resist this position (yet another reason why it helps to start young). The key here is to take it easy and build up your baby’s tolerance slowly. Over time, he will slowly adjust to it and eventually begin to enjoy floating on his back. To help him feel comfortable, you can support his head with one hand and use your other hand to touch his leg or arm for reassurance. The aim is to eventually have him floating on his own.
Start by showing your baby how to blow bubbles under the water. Let your baby touch your mouth and the bubbles as you do this. Eventually, after a week or more, your baby may try to blow bubbles under water as well. Encourage this with lots of enthusiasm and hugs.
It was interesting to note an experience that happened with the boys. One day I was trying to teach Gavin to blow bubbles in the water while Gareth observed. A day or two later when Gareth was sitting in his little bath tub in the shower, he dipped his head into the water and started blowing bubbles. I never really taught him to blow bubbles (at least, my instruction was never directed at him). He just happened to be watching and he caught on to the idea on his own.
How do you get your baby to hold his breath? This has always been one of my concerns with teaching a baby how to swim. Sure they talk about the swimming reflex – that babies will naturally hold their breath under water – but what if your baby is already past that stage?
Bobbing Up and Down
Douglas Doman shares something one mother told them – if you blow gently at your baby’s face, he will naturally hold his breath. So what you can do is gently blow at your baby’s face to encourage him to hold his breath before dipping his mouth and nose under the water.
Begin the process of bobbing up and down by slowly lowering your baby into the water until he is submerged up to his chin. You can also make it a game by lifting baby up into the air and then allowing him to dip into the water up to his chin. Make the game fun and don’t forget to laugh and share hugs. You want to teach your baby that this is fun.
Then teach him to go under until the water covers his mouth. You want him to learn not to swallow water. This is probably a better activity to do at home rather than in a public swimming pool filled with chemicals in the water. If your baby is anything like mine, he will experiment with drinking the water. Once he gets the hang of going under up to his mouth without drinking water, teach him to submerge up to his nose without inhaling water.
Progress at your child’s pace. Once he gets better, you can try releasing him into the water and letting him kick himself back up to the surface. Be aware of your child’s ability to hold his breath under water and be ready to intervene if he needs help. This is about as far as we’ve gotten so far (although Gareth hasn’t actually experienced submersion yet).
Ideally, the promotion of physical development for babies should begin immediately after birth, or as soon as possible because babies put on a lot of weight very quickly which works against them when trying to develop motor coordination. In an earlier post, I lamented over the fact that I had missed the boat with Gareth because we started on the physical activities late. While Doman talks about what you can do to help your child become physically superb in his book “How to Teach Your Baby to be Physically Superb“, there is not much said about what to do if you miss the boat.
Although you could try to make up for lost time by giving your baby more opportunities to develop his physical attributes, I find myself uncomfortable allowing Gareth to get too frustrated on his tummy. Doman states in the book “How to Teach Your Baby to be Physically Superb” that some babies will cry during tummy time but it’s okay because crying helps them get more oxygen. He also adds that parents should only do what they feel comfortable with and I don’t feel comfortable with that.
So what else can you do?
Introduce water play. The IAHP says that babies love to swim. I second that. Both Gavin and Gareth are water babies. They loved talking baths from the moment they were born. Unfortunately, I didn’t really capitalise on that fact with Gavin because I never took him swimming until he was one year old. Now, although he still loves playing with water, he doesn’t like it when the water gets too deep and he isn’t very adventurous at the swimming pool.
Thankfully, it isn’t too late for Gareth…
I bought the neck float for Gareth that I wrote about and we took the boys swimming yesterday. Suffice to say that Gareth looked like he was in heaven the moment we put him into the swimming pool. We let him kick around in the water for about 15 minutes before taking him out. I’m sure he would have enjoyed a longer swim but we didn’t want to over do it on his first day. It was probably just as well because he was half asleep by the time we got to the car. It must have been an exhausting exercise because he slept a lot throughout the rest of the day.
I’m afraid I don’t have any photos to show because I was a little busy in the water watching both boys.
Being in the water is great for Gareth because he can exercise without the hindrance of his weight. He loves being in the water and he has a lot of fun while he’s at it. Now I can still help him work on his motor development without making him frustrated. As he gains better physical strength and coordination in the water, it will help to “enhance the ability to crawl on the belly and creep on hands and knees”. So if you’ve missed the critical window of opportunity to develop your baby physically from birth, the next best thing to do is to take your baby swimming.
The neck float is one of the best flotation devices to use because it provides your baby the greatest freedom of movement in the water while most other floats restrict movement.
Swimming also offers other benefits to your baby’s development. Because the brain grows through use, swimming provides additional sensory stimulation and opportunity for a baby to grow his brain. This translates not only to physical development but mental development.
With a toddler and a baby to contend with, I haven’t really had much time to think about getting back into shape until recently. Every year, we have a tradition of buying new clothes for Chinese New Year. Every year, I usually manage to find something decent to wear…
…until this year.
After delivering Gareth, I seem to have retained some excess baggage around the mid-rift that has destroyed whatever semblance of a waistline I used to have. Clothes shopping this year has been utterly depressing. I haven’t found anything that I am remotely convinced looks good on me even though my kind shopping companions have reassured me that it does. Of course, Gavin would say I look pretty in anything. He’s even been trying to help me pick out clothes for Chinese New Year by making his own recommendations on what he thinks I should try on. They aren’t always entirely appropriate, but I appreciate the gesture.
I’m digressing… This whole experience has convinced me that it is time to get off my behind and do something about it rather than feel sorry for my aging body. So I’ve started a workout diary on Pro-Sports where I intend to document the journey back to fitness. Feel free to visit me there and share your experiences, ideas and workout schedules.