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Getting fit, learning and having

WELL-MEANING parents often push their kids to study, study, study while often neglecting the importance of physical activity. But participating in sports from a young age can teach children valuable skills that last a life time, writes Wang Jie.

Chinese parents often find it difficult to deal with their young children who seemingly have an endless amount of energy and get into trouble by doing things they shouldn't.

However, TTP (Think, Try and Play) Kid's Gym offers a variety of sports and physical activities for children. Such activities are ideal for energetic children, who are sometimes thought of as naughty, and help them develop valuable skills.

"This is a new idea in China for kids education," says Ding Zufeng, general manager at TTP. "In fact, such sports centers are popular in the West and in some Asian countries like Japan and South Korea."

For many Chinese parents, early education for their children largely focuses on developing intelligence and hobbies. English, painting, piano, dancing and even mathematics are popular. Only a small percentage of Chinese parents allow their children to participate in organized sports.

However, based on studies, the management and control of emotions and social skills children learn from ages three to six make a big impact on their future life.

Introducing the Social Skills Improvement System from the United States, TTP designed 10 separate training sessions for children to develop fine motor skills, balance and coordination, speed and agility and strength. Established by Rainer Martens in 1974, ASEP now has about 30 million children at is centers scattered around 20 countries and regions.

A series of sports from golf and basketball to soccer and tennis allow children to develop physical skills while having fun at the same time.

"Compared with studying, sports activities are often more easily accepted by children," Ding says. "Catering for children of different age groups, there will be around 30 physical tests made by the center to reflect the exercise ability of the children."

Sports teach children about competition.

Good behavior

"Whether it's within a team or an individual race, there will always be winners and losers," Ding adds. "The experience of competing will teach kids how to work in teams, how to share with others, how to compromise, how to comfort their peers who lose the game and how to adjust through failure. These are all important things to learn while growing up."

Due to the one-child policy in China, children here are often pampered by their parents and grandparents. They have even been dubbed "little emperor and empresses," which may result in selfishness and the inability to do things for themselves.

"Parents and grandparents in China easily lose their authority in front of their kids, but the activities at TTP help them realize what is the bottom line and other moral standards through nurturing good behavior," Ding says.

For example, five-year-old Zai Zai has changed significantly after joining the sports center.

"My son used to be a very inward person," says his mother. "Most of the time, he preferred to stay at home, watching television and painting. My friend recommended this center to me."

Zai Zai says he still remembers his first class.

"Believe it or not, there was not a single teacher, only an elder brother and elder sister," the boy says. "The first day a big brother came to me and told me he was my basketball coach. He said that playing basketball could make me stronger like a real man."

The boy says all the teachers at his kindergarten are women.

His mother says: "Since then, Zai Zai asks to go to the center every week, as there are many interesting activities, friendly coaches and companions.

"These sports activities have also helped Zai Zai deal with some negative feelings and he has become more active, energetic and happier."

His mother says her son is more open and has even made several good friends at the center.

Based on a study by the Educational Testing Service of the US, children who have a year of systematic sports activities score 63.37 points higher on the SAT compared to those who haven't played sports.

Robert H. Bruininks, the famous American child sports expert, concluded that children who start playing sports from two to six years of age will see this impact their behavior for the rest of their lives.

This echoes a traditional Chinese saying -- smart kids might not be good at sports, but the kids good at sports must be smart.


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