Tree Fu Tom Training Camp, CBeebies Land, Alton Towers
Russell Play was asked by Merlin Entertainments to create a unique outdoor play area in the Alton Towers theme park called ‘Tree Fu Tom Training Camp’ which was to be based on the BBC children’s TV show ‘Tree Fu Tom’. This was to form part of ‘CBeebies Land’ a new, larger themed play area also based on programmes shown on the BBC children’s channel ‘CBeebies’ aimed at children of nursery/primary school age.
The BBC TV show, the playground is based on, ‘Tree Fu Tom’ is a magical and interactive action adventure series for 3-5 year olds. It follows a young boy called Tom who can use ‘movement magic’ (‘Tree Fu’) to transform in to a tiny but mighty magical superhero. Tom then meets with his friends in the enchanted world of Treetopolis, and has all kinds of action-packed adventures, which always lead to some trouble. When things get out of hand Tom has to create some Big World Magic and save the day with the help of the viewing audience who are asked to perform ‘Tree Fu moves’ to create the magic.
Although ‘Tree Fu Tom Training Camp’ playground has been designed to encourage children of all abilities to develop certain skills it has specifically designed equipment to help children with dyspraxia.The equipment design incorporates carefully selected sequences of movement put together by movement specialists to help children with dyspraxia to develop important foundation motor skills. It is hoped that practising these movements will benefit all children but especially those with dyspraxia and other developmental coordination disorders.
The concept of the Tree Fu Tom park was to create a physical Treetopolis like environment. The children could then join Tom and his friends and go on an amazing new adventure where their play could help transform them into Tree Fu masters. It is a place where they could learn these moves through play and complete Tree Fu training at the Spell School. They can then put the moves into practice on an adventure around Treetopolis, visiting all of Tom’s magical friends and places from Ariela’s Ranch to Zigzoo’s boat. Running, jumping, climbing, sliding, pushing and pulling, swinging, gliding all at the Tree Fu Tom Training Camp where children could put their moves and skills to the ultimate test: to become a Tree Fu hero too!
To create the Tree Fu Tom environment Russell Play worked with Spielart as they have the flexibility to produce specially designed, bespoke, timber play equipment that would result in the movement sequences specified by the children’s movement specialists. The Spielart product also has the appropriate natural wood feel of the tree theme central to the look and feel of the style in the Tree Fu Tom programme.
The equipment design helps children with dyspraxia and other coordination disorders as they need more opportunities to practise these skills than their friends and a huge benefit of Tree Fu Tom is that children are eager to join in with the spells and therefore practise their movement skills without even realising. Of course, all children will benefit from more active ‘screen time’ too, and by having a go at Tree Fu magic they will have a lot of fun at the same time, never knowing that the movements they are doing are helping them learn and hone important skills that can help and hopefully improve their development.
What is Dyspraxia?
Dyspraxia is the result of an immaturity in the development of the nervous system. This means that nerve signals are not sent smoothly from the brain to muscles so movements appear awkward and take a lot of effort.
Children with dyspraxia have difficulty developing the movement skills that seem to come naturally to other children. They often have poor balance and find it difficult to move their arms and legs in a coordinated manner. Using both sides of the body together, for example when riding a bike and using cutlery, can be especially challenging. Without these foundation movement skills it is hard for children to carry out everyday activities such as getting dressed, eating a meal and using a pencil to write and draw. We don’t really understand what causes dyspraxia but we do know that, given the right opportunities and enough practice, children are able to develop the movement skills they need in their everyday life.