The United States has been trying to balance its budget for many years. Most households try to balance a check -book or balance work time with family time. However, most of us never think of balancing ourselves, i.e., our bodies. Once a baby is up on its toes and has taken a few steps forward, the child has achieved balance. We take this ability to stay on our feet for granted.
In Japan, the Ministry of Education recommends, as part of its physical development program, that school children improve their balance and strengthen their inner core by learning to ride a unicycle. They further recommend that the schools make available to the students other implements that foster balance and core strength, such as bamboo stilts and hula –hoops.
In the schools where these implements are available on the playground, children, with the help of other students, learn to use these things. The most popular seems to be the unicycle. In fact, many students, particularly girls, often belong to after school clubs where they prepare to be part of an annual parade. In a country where the average life expectancy for women is 87, keeping one’s balance is a useful ability. Falling and breaking one’s hip can spell doom in old age.
As a person who worked with children for many years, I try to imagine playgrounds where children actually help each other learn to do physical activities. I can visualize competition; I cannot visualize assistance.
Japanese children are learning much more than how to balance themselves on a unicycle. They are learning to share talents, which will improve the quality of life for all members of the group.