A common trait amongst children who are slow to develop is poor hand eye coordination. For many years in my practice I have taken many different approaches to help kids improve their hand eye coordination in a fun and engaging manner. A few months ago I started experimenting with a new method that has proven to be very effective. I was reading about a new toy that was becoming increasingly popular in American high schools called a kendama. Kids were putting down their electronics and playing with this ancient Japanese toy instead. Having tested this over the last few months I am now adding it to my syllabus due to it’s effectiveness.
Kendama comes from the japanese word けん玉. Ken (けん) meaning wooden spike and tama (玉) meaning ball. The ken has three cups and a spike which fits into a hole in the ball. Records of Kendama in Japan date back to the early 1700s when it was played by adults as a drinking game. Hatsukaichi City in Hiroshima Prefecture
To play with a kendama one holds the ken and flicks the ball up with the aim of getting it to land on one of the three cups or to get the hole in the ball to land on the spike. More advanced tricks include juggling the ball from side to side, or throwing up and catching the ken before finishing the trick by catching the ball on the spike. The japanese kendama association has a list of 101 tricks to master ranging from beginner level or 10 kyu all the way up to advanced. However thousands of tricks are possible and each trick can have multiple grip and stance variations. In the trick moshikame (もしかめ) for example, the ball is juggled between the cup at the top and bottom in a continuous motion, there is even a popular children’s song to help with the timing.
Competitions take place regularly in Japan and are becoming increasingly popular in the western world. When participating in a kendama competition you are given a list of tricks that will need to be completed in succession. You perform head to head against other players and the first competitor to fail a trick loses.
Kendama is becoming so popular in the United States now that there are multiple companies springing up to keep up with the increasing demand. As there are now so many options available it can be difficult to decide on which kendama is best for your child’s needs. We reached out to the website kendama guide for some advice and they had this to say:
“There are a huge number of kendama brands available on the market today, some are hand crafted and some are painstakingly crafted by hand over many hours. I think the most important thing to consider when buying a kendama for your child is the price to quality ratio. Cheap wooden kendamas can splinter and ware very badly over time. Going for a high end kendama is also not a good idea as you should be able to complete all 101 tricks prescribed by the japanese kendama association before going this route. Therefore the best kendama for a beginner is a mid range kendama from a brand such as Sweets. One of their entry level kendama is more than sufficient for a beginner and the build quality means it will last a long time. If your child becomes an enthusiast then getting a Mugen Musou or other expert kendama can be worth the price tag, but is still by no means necessary.
Another type of kendama that is becoming increasingly popular is the kendama pill from Terra kendama. It is very similar to the kendama but consists of two pill capsules and no ball. If you decide to buy a kendama pill then we suggest going with Terra kendama as they are the inventors of it.”
If you want to find a fun and enjoyable toy that will get your kids away from their electronics and improve the concentration and hand eye coordination then a kendama is a great option!