I love the idea that as parents, we have the power (and responsibility) to help our little ones develop the skills they need to be as successful as possible when they start school. As you may know, our very own Little Chap started in Reception this term and is settling in nicely (thanks for asking!).
Some of the most important skills our children need to succeed at school are their motor skills, or their ability to move in different ways. They need both fine motor skills (for example the ability to pick up a pea with their fingers or thread a string through the eye of an appropriately sized bead) in order to be able to develop the necessary pencil grip needed for writing clearly and comfortably and, in addition to core body strength, they need gross motor skills (larger bodily movements like running, jumping and swinging their arms) in order to be able to write from one side of a page to the other while sitting still (ironic yes, I know!). It is this skill requirement that almost passed me by.
Well, did you ever consider that to be able to write legible words on a page, you must first have not only good enough core body strength to hold yourself in a sitting position for any length of time, but also the ability to cross your writing arm over your own midpoint or centre of gravity?
Go on, sit down and write (I know, you haven’t used a pen in ages, but humour me here!) – see? I know, it didn’t occur to me either. A little easier now to see how kids with less well developed motor skills might find it harder to succeed in school, isn’t it?
Luckily, about a year ago, Little Chap was laid up with a fractured ankle. That in itself wasn’t lucky – far from it, in fact – but this event led to us having to amuse him for hours on end. Thankfully, a new programme hit CBeebies around the same time and Little Chap was hooked.
This was none other than Tree Fu Tom!
What d’you mean you’ve not heard of him…?!
Either you have a blanket ban on all Children’s TV (I admire your strength), don’t own a TV (please keep reading, I promise this will still be relevant!) or you live under a rock (in which case, I’m not sure how you’re reading this?).
Tree Fu Tom is aimed at pre-school and school age kids. Tom is a young boy who shrinks to the size of a leaf and grows wings so he can fly to Treetopolis – a city of Treelings – high up in the trees at the bottom of the garden. While there, he goes to the Treelings’ Magic School to learn Tree Fu magic, occasionally finding that they need his help and his Big World magic to help them out of the odd spot of bother. Oh ok then, quite frequent spots of bother…
Luckily our boy Tom is the heroic type. Easy enough for a young, impressionable 3-5 year old chap to identify with (can’t speak for girls I’m afraid, though I think one of my nieces is a fan too…?) – he’s not perfect, bit he’s earnest and popular and clearly seen by his Treeling chums as the coolest kid in town! So, all good there then. But what, I hear you ask, has all this heroic stuff to do with motor skills and starting school successfully?
There’s the clever bit! Not only have the BBC created another must watch programme for kids, they’ve done it for us parents too. You see, every time Tom uses his Tree Fu magic, he has to do some Tree Fu moves to turn on his magic sap stone (which he keeps on his belt). He does similar moves to do his Big World magic. Each time he does these moves, he invites his young audience to get involved and do them with him so they can send their magic to him (then shown visually to them on their television screens!). Then, once he’s saved the day, he thanks them for their help.
The best bit is that the BBC worked with education and physiotherapy specialists to ensure these innocent “moves” were actively encouraging our kids to move the way they need to in order to develop those key skills! So clever.
Of course, being the Beeb, they are also good at making this same product accessible to parents and children across multi media channels – the TV programme was quickly followed by physically interactive games on the CBeebies website. Then TFT appeared in CBeebies magazines. Little Chap loved the mini figures and cut out “theatre” of Treetopolis.
Imagine his delight, when we were sent our very own first edition of the new Tree Fu Tom magazine, which is now available from all good newsagents each month? They didn’t stop there – they also sent the new DVD set, complete with Tom mini figure, a carry along colouring book and crayons and a book so I can tell you that you can share this Tree Fu wonderfulness (that may not be a word but it seemed appropriate here) with your child in one of a number of ways.
Little Chap also has their merchandise catalogue, so I’m now full of ideas for christmas presents he might like Santa to bring this year. You name it your needs are covered – duvet sets, games, jigsaw puzzles, garden activity toys, books, DVDs, creative colouring sets, sticker books and more will all be in the shops for Christmas.
Seriously, that kid is already a hero in Little Chap’s eyes and, if in any way he’s helped our son develop or refine a single one of the skills he’s needed for school this term, that makes him a hero in my eyes too! Why not check him out.
Some further resources you might find useful:
The new Tree Fu Tom range is now available from all major children’s toy retailers, the magazine from all good newsagents and major supermarkets.
Is your child a fan of Tree Fu Tom? Do you think it’s helping them keep active and/or develop key skills?