We have been previewing a new CBeebies programme this week and we are very excited. Not only because the wonderful David Tennant is voicing one of the main characters but also because it is well researched and encourages children to actively participate in the story.
Former Doctor Who stars David Tennant and Sophie Aldred voice the lead characters Tom (Aldred) and Twigs (Tennant) in the new multi-platform fantasy action adventure series, Tree Fu Tom coming to CBeebies in March. Twigs is a wonderful character, beautifully animated, incredibly cute and full of vibrant energy.
Aimed at four to six year olds, Tree Fu Tom is set in an enchanted world where movement creates magic. Tom appears to be a normal eight-year-old boy but putting on his magic belt and performing a special sequence of magic action-movements (known as Tree Fu) transforms him into a tiny but mighty magical super-hero.
All of the Tree Fu magic moves that children are encouraged to copy are developed from therapeutic techniques that are used to help children with movement disorders like dyspraxia, but are designed to assist and enhance the development of all participating children at a crucial time in their growth.
Magic is an essential part of Tree Fu Tom and children are encouraged to participate in the movement-based Tree Fu spells to affect the outcome of each episode. Dyspraxia Foundation movement specialists Sally Payne and Dr Lynda Foulder-Hughes worked closely with the series choreographer Nick Kellington to develop unique spell movement sequences that reflect the narrative of each story-line and which have a “cool” martial-arts type feel (which is particularly engaging for boys). However the programme is equally appealing to girls with its beautiful animation, captivating any girl who is interested in fairies and elves.
My girls loved it (it even drew my 7 year old away from CBBC for a moment). I asked my 3 year old what she liked about it
I likeded the bit where he did magic – he crouchded down and jumpded like frogs and it went magic.
Participation in the magic spells was clearly a hit with her. The nature of the programme also lends itself perfectly to becoming a Kinect game, imagine how magical it would be to copy Tree Fu Tom’s movements, creating your own spells and going on a personal, fantastical journey.
Tree Fu Tom has his own online section which includes 6 action packed games developed in consultation with a Senior Educational Psychologist. There will also be further support in the CBeebies Grown Ups Section.
Tree Fu Tom and Dyspraxia
Dyspraxia and coordination difficulties are common, life-long conditions that affect up to 10 per cent of school-aged children (two per cent severely). It is an impairment of the organisation of movement and is the result of an immaturity in the development of the nervous system. This means that nerve signals are not transmitted effectively from the brain to muscles, affecting a person’s ability to perform movements in a smooth, coordinated way.
Understanding of the underlying causes of dyspraxia (also known as Developmental Coordination Disorder) is limited but children who are born early, who have a low birth weight or who have a family history of dyspraxia are more likely to have the condition.
Sally adds: “Awareness of dyspraxia remains low in comparison to other common developmental disorders. Tree Fu Tom offers a unique opportunity to raise the profile of this much missed and misunderstood condition.”
Children with dyspraxia have difficulty developing the movement skills that come naturally to their peers. They often have poor balance and postural stability; find it difficult to move their arms and legs in a coordinated manner; and struggle to use both sides of their body together. Without these foundation skills it is hard for them to carry out everyday activities such as walking up stairs without tripping, bending down to pull on socks, making marks with a crayon and using a knife and fork.
Their difficulties with movement skills can often lead to children with dyspraxia falling behind at school (despite, often, having above average IQs) and having additional social challenges at school – this is especially apparent for boys whose early social interactions tend to involve physical skill-based activities such as sports.
Having worked with children with Dyspraxia in the past, I see this as a wonderful opportunity to raise awareness and support children with the condition.
Tree Fu Tom starts on Monday 5th March on CBeebies .