Children & Tai Chi

• September 9, 2012 • Comments (2)

photo: Gennaro Ambrosino

I have been teaching for over 30 years in 6 different countries. Twenty years ago in China, I saw something very wonderful, 350 high school students did a half hour of Tai Chi together every day to start the school day.

Seeing the focus, calmness, concentration and ability to work together, I decided this was something I wanted to learn and teach to children everywhere. So I went to China to study. I visualized children in big cities or suburban areas learning Tai Chi. I thought it would be good for pre school kids, stressed out high school kids preparing for college and everyone in between. It didn’t matter whether a child had ADD, ADHD, or any other learning challenges. This deserved a try.

I simplified the tai chi moves so it was easy to learn. Working with autistic children I saw remarkable changes in behavior, ability to relate to others and self-confidence. For example, after 3 months Carol stood on one foot to tie her shoe. She looked at her mother and said, ”It’s because I do Tai Chi.”

Another autistic teen, Carl, went on a cruise with his mom. He saw a ropes course on the island. He had never done it. But he climbed up the tree, walked across the rope ladder and down the other side. His mother cried with happiness when she called to tell me. “It’s the Tai Chi. I could see it was making a difference!”

Just recently I did a late afternoon session with some tired but rambunctious 4 to 9 year old kids in a summer camp. Tai Chi brought them back to attention with calmness and enthusiasm.

It made sense to me. Tai Chi works on the inside of the body and helps give order to feelings of confusion and turmoil. We begin to understand our needs and emotions and to anticipate a feeling that is building in us. It becomes easier to find self-control. Pretending to be an animal moving peacefully in nature takes us away from the noisy, hectic pace of daily life.

I was so excited by these results that I began using Tai Chi with all my students – the stressed out over achiever, the most hyper active kids who couldn’t concentrate at all, the ones who had no self-confidence and had given up on themselves. With the video CD rom for the computer it is easy to learn the moves. The audio CD for regular practice helps you close your eyes and focus inside.

A special ed teacher in Brooklyn used it with her challenging class. One hyperactive boy would throw the chairs around the classroom when he was out of control. Through the regular practice of Tai Chi over just 6 weeks Billy learned to anticipate his tantrum coming on and call out “I need to do Tai Chi!” The whole class would stop to do 10 minutes of Tai Chi together and then go on with their work.

In our society, where we find that physical education classes and even recess are often cut or reduced, I like to think of children doing TAI CHI MOVES for a few minutes everyday in class and at home.

Sometimes it is not safe to let our kids go outside to play. But they can do Tai chi. Sometimes bedtime becomes a struggle. Tai Chi can be a beautiful family activity before bed. We can all be sleeping lions.

Tapping on our bodies is a great morning activity for just 5 minutes. The whole family can wake up their energy and get ready for the day.

The best time to start is in elementary school – when children are developing study skills and habits. As they grow, Tai Chi reminds them to breathe, stand straight, relax, visualize, focus, and release stress. It enhances creativity, too.

Of course it is also great in middle school, high school and for adults. Once learned, it is the perfect exercise. It can be done in a few minutes, here and there, throughout the day.

I always suggest doing a few minutes of Tai Chi before a test or important performance. As you breathe and visualize, your shoulders and stomach relax. That tight feeling in the abdomen goes away. The blood begins to circulate more freely. We become rooted and centered. The mind focuses on the task ahead. Even a three year old can do it. Imagine a classroom where students practice Tai Chi regularly. There is an atmosphere of calm focus and cooperation. Teachers tell me that on the days they do Tai Chi everything works better. These students develop the self-confidence they need to find success. They are flexible and balanced, free of excessive fears and anxiety. Kids with special needs such as ADD, ADHD, autism, poor concentration, low energy and other disabilities can improve their focus and self-control, their ability to relate to others, to stay on target with their work and believe in themselves.

Isn’t it wonderful that we have a tool to help us deal with the ever-increasing level of stress in our lives? Isn’t it even better that now we can share it with our children? My dream is that parents and teachers everywhere will discover Tai Chi and learn to use it with their children so everyone can find the inner peace that can change our lives.

About the author:
Cari Shurman is the creator of Tai Chi Moves for Kids and Tai Chi Moves. These programs help children of all ages improve their focus, fitness and self-esteem through mindful exercise and breathing.  Offering workshops to parents, teachers, social workers and therapists in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and other schools for 10 years, she has helped thousands of kids learn these wonderful tools of calmness, concentration and cooperation.  She is working on an English/Spanish Tai Chi DVD for Kids of all ages that will be released in the fall.  To learn more, or purchase the CD’s please check out the web site:

This article was first published on Into Mountains, Over StreamsInternational Journal of Qi Gong and Taiji culture




Category: Articles, Consciousness

Comments (2)

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  1. "Through the regular practice of Tai Chi over just 6 weeks Billy learned to anticipate his tantrum coming on and call out “I need to do Tai Chi!” The whole class would stop to do 10 minutes of Tai Chi together and then go on with their work."

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