Kids between the ages of five and seven years old are no longer “little kids.” They’re in a very important transition in their lives. They’ve developed skills that make them appear to have things more together, so they are often approached by adults as an “older kid.” However, they still don’t have the basic skills necessary to keep up with the “big kids”.
Between the ages of five and seven years old, kids are very enthusiastic. Their language skills have increased, and they’re able to pay attention for longer periods of time. They’re developing thinking and reasoning skills and have gotten better at seeing other people’s point of view. All of this increases their autonomy and gives them a sense of independence.
And while these new, more mature skills are exciting to see 5-7 year old’s develop, they often come with a “know it all” kind of attitude. At this age, kids begin testing the boundaries of rules set in place due to their increased thinking skills. They also begin talking back because they now have a more expansive vocabulary to express their opinions with. But despite these more developed thinking and language skills, kids at this age may still whine or have meltdowns occasionally. Five to seven year old’s also enjoy the spotlight but tend to lack proper sportsmanship, because they get embarrassed easily. Because of this, they might accuse others of cheating during games or get upset when they don’t win.
Five to seven year old’s need adults in their lives that understand this unique transition period. They want guidance and structure and their confidence increases by making mentors proud. However, they tend to act silly when they are nervous or excited and they do not take well to criticism. For these reasons, the best approach is the use of positive reinforcement with them. Praising the good behavior that they exhibit will increase their confidence and, therefore, increase the likelihood of their negative behaviors being more manageable. It is also important for adults to be mindful when voicing expectations so that these kids learn that privileges are earned by making appropriate choices, not just that consequences come from inappropriate choices.
THE MARTIAL APPLICATION:
Our Little Ninjas program at Glens Falls Karate Academy was created for this age group to target their stages of development in a manner that adapts to their social and intellectual curiosity while, at the same time, building skills that set them up for success. In each class, students are encouraged to take turns and learn to compromise. They also learn how to win and lose gracefully. To further support this, our instructors are trained to utilize the 10 Laws of Instruction in each class while teaching the skills that are specifically designed to help with the development of our 5-7 year old students. Their skill development is rewarded in each class, which keeps them excited and ready to learn more.
Our 5-7 year olds are our most enthusiastic students. They love creativity and problem solving, which makes them ideal students in the Martial Arts. The problem we discovered is that they are so progressive in following along with tasks, some teachers tend to treat them like their older peers. This is a problem because they still don’t have the basic skills necessary to keep up with kids ages 8 and up. The solution we’ve found is to provide them with their own program that targets their stages of development in a manner that adapts to their social and intellectual curiosity while at the same time building skills that set them up for success. With that said a structured program introducing basic skill-based martial arts training has proven to be very successful.
Here’s an overview of the stages of development for children ages 5 through 7, along with the typical expectations for students starting out in our programs, as well as our goals for them throughout participation in our program:
- They typically do not know how to apply their muscles so they fall often when their body is in constant motion. Also, while they have a basic foundation for leg, arm, core, and abdominal development, they still lack a lot of strength.
- We expect them to initially struggle with multiple kicks beyond five repetitions. We also expect them to initially have sloppy technique when exercising.
- The goals for our program are to get them to perform high repetitions of kicks without putting their foot down, and also perform static, active, and dynamic exercises for beyond ten repetitions with good technique.
- They typically have a hard time retaining beyond three commands. They also have a hard time distinguishing between their left and right.
- We expect them to initially get confused when we ask them to do more than three things at one time. We also initially expect them to have a hard time distinguishing between their left and right when following multiple-commands.
- The goal for our program is to get them to retain three or more commands at once, and beyond. We will also help them learn how to perform various left and right combinations.
- They typically focus on things that make them happy. They also have slow brakes when they are excited.
- We expect them to initially lose focus and shut down when they are not happy. We also expect them to lose control when they are over-excited.
- The goal for our program is to help them focus even when it’s hard to do so. We will also help them control their body and their power, especially when they are excited.
- They love to play with others, but are typically very competitive.
- We expect them to initially show weak sportsmanship when they participate in a competition.
- The goals for our program are to help them build good teamwork habits such as no cheating; don’t get angry when they lose; and don’t brag when they win.
By understanding the stages of development of 5-7 year olds, we were able to select 8 age-appropriate skills that make up our Little Ninjas Program:
We cover one of the above skills per class (in order). During each class we run a warm-up; deliver a mat chat about the skill; run two or three skill-building drills; and then we have them demonstrate the skill to earn their skill-stripe. They must earn all 8 skill-stripes in order to graduate to the next belt level. Once they earn their next belt they will continue to run through all 8 skills earning their skill-stripes with a more challenging curriculum as they advance to each rank. They graduate to Junior Karate Program after they have successfully completed all 8-belt ranks of the Little Ninjas program.
Here is an example of what a white belt must demonstrate for each of the 8 skills above in order to earn their next belt:
- FOCUS – Punching and kicking a pad that is thrown by an instructor standing one-step away from their side. This assists in the assessment of whole body focus/development of spatial awareness & depth perception.
- TEAMWORK – Holding a kicking target for their partner while their partner performs ten kicks. By demonstrating their pad holding safety & responsibility skills, we are able to assess their cooperation and social development.
- CONTROL – Stopping their body at attention position after running forward on an instructors command. Assessing this skill allows students to demonstrate control over their body while in motion
- MEMORY – Demonstrating the three stage 1 blocks and three stage 1 strikes from memory. Using their ability to retain more than 3 techniques at a time to assess the development of short term, long term and reactive memory.
- BALANCE – Executing five front kicks without putting their foot down in between each rep. They must show full execution and retraction while keeping their knee chambered at belt level or higher. Observing their balance and stability to assess their abdominal/core development.
- DISCIPLINE – Demonstrating how to properly sit, take a knee, kneel on both knees, and stand at attention without moving. A demonstration of their ability to simply keep their body under control. Also discussed, the necessity to do what needs to be done when we don’t want to do it.
- FITNESS – Holding each static leg, arm, abdominal, and core exercise. WIth a focus on assessing technique to properly develop each muscle group.
- COORDINATION – Performing left and right punching combinations. Assessing spatial awareness and focus on processing/following directions quickly.
We’ve used basic elements of our traditional Okinawan karate curriculum to build skills that are appropriate for 5 through 7 year olds. This means that your child will learn and grow at a pace that is not too easy, nor too challenging. The best part is our Little Ninjas Program will equip your child with skills that they will utilize in every area of their life!
Understanding the struggles of development that 5-7 year old’s are faced with is essential for the adults in their lives. Giving them the ability to make choices is vital to continuing the development of their autonomy. However, it is also essential to keep boundaries in check. Remember to not take things personally when a challenge presents itself and you will be able to respond more appropriately with this newfound insight and clarity.