Tree fu Tom – inspiring and inviting, not telling

As a storyteller I’ve occasionally watched children’s television for performance tips. The Wiggles, for example, are a tour de force in projection of a performance personality. Play School will teach much about organising content for gentle learning and teaching.

As a father I have the pleasure to watch alongside our daughter. We’ve only recently started introducing screen time to her, but she already has her favourites; she’s fascinated by “In the Night Garden”, a fantastical world that operates on dream logic.

I was fascinated by one that we happened to watch early this evening. Tree Fu Tom is the tale of a boy who shrinks down to miniature size in order to help his bug friends solve their problems. The storylines are compelling, with various challenges facing the crew who use teamwork and communication to save the day.

Teamwork, communication and… magic spells as it happens. Have a look at one.

On first glance, the gestures of the spell reminded me of t’ai chi, or perhaps given the show’s title a kung fu routine. A little research revealed a more interesting truth behind the Jackie Chan act. It turns out that the moves were designed by a couple of specialists in the treatment of dyspraxia in children. During each spell, Tom prompts the children to perform the movements along with him slowly at first, and then a second time sped up. The children then clap to send their part of the spell to Tom, who can save the day. The movements are designed to help improve coordination, and their repetition – with four or so “spells” necessary to counter the dangers arising in each episode – ensures that children supported to engage by their co-watching parents will benefit greatly from both the exercise and the nature of the activity itself.

Our little Rose enjoyed the spectacle, not so much the exercise. To compensate I later got involved in a game of chase around the living room that lasted until dinner time.

Tree Fu Tom was a good enough animation, a great story and and an example of excellence in supporting positive child development. Where other shows tell children what to do, the hard work was central to the fun. In casting the magic spell together with Tom, the children not only save the day for the characters on screen but themselves as well.

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About seanmurgatroyd
Library (Shared blog): http://diligentroom.wordpress.com/ Personal including infoculture, book reviews: http://diligentroom.wordpress.com/ Music: http://seanfishmusic.wordpress.com/ Last.fm band page: http://www.last.fm/music/Seanfish @seanfish

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