Chillin’ the children with ‘Chi’

Evening Tai Chi classes for kids teach emotion modulation, flexibility

Deidre VanRy, (left) a library employee and tai chi teacher, takes students in her kids class at Castle Pines Library through techiques that show them, among other things, how to modulate their emotions. Photo by Virginia Grantier

Her six-year-old son is “pretty intense,” and usually has lots of energy, but on a recent Thursday at the Castle Pines Library, she noticed he had noticeably calmed down, said mom Aimee Oldenburg, 36, of Castle Rock.

That was after he, Owen Oldenburg, had the opportunity to participate in the library’s weekly Tai Chi Kids — Fun and Focus class.

He told the News-Press later he had learned techniques to help him when he gets mad at his sister, and indicated he’d probably be using the technique a lot.

Instructor Deidre VanRy, who has practiced Tai Chi for 16 years, said it has made her stronger, both physically and mentally.

She said that in addition to it being a light physical workout that increases balance and physical and mental flexibility, it also teaches how to “modulate emotions by way of the body” — to “rev up” when needed, to calm down when needed.

To energize when getting out of bed in the morning, she took her seven students through a particular stretch and positioning that ended with having them do a “belly laugh,” which made them laugh even more and energize more.

To calm and focus them for such things as doing homework, she took them through some deep-breathing and balancing techniques. Some were in the form of games.

Tai Chi was thought to have been created in the 12 Century. It’s known for its defense techniques, health benefits, and a means to alleviate stress and anxiety, VanRy said.

Cherie Ellingson, a branch program liaison for Douglas County Libraries, is the one who decided that VanRy’s proposal for a kids class was a good fit for the library for a couple of reasons — including they want more programs for that age demographic of 8 to 13.

Ellingson also said martial arts is popular now, and thought it would be fun and educational. Research has shown a positive correlation between practicing Tai Chi and coping with ADHD, and over-stimulation and anxiety.

VanRy said a goal for the class is to make it fun, so kids will continue to practice it.
One activity was the five-animal frolic, different techniques based on movements of the tiger, deer, bear, monkey and bird.

Owen said he thinks it’s the “deer” technique that will help him with his sister.