June Wood Element activities for children – by Karin Kalbantner-Wernicke and Bettye Jo Wray-Fears

In our previous blog we introduced the element Wood through a visualization exercise to help children begin to feel the Element in themselves and the environment.  The focus was on the imagination and creativity qualities that Wood Element offers in life. We will continue with Wood in this blog and expand on the way it supports child development.

Beside creativity and imagination, the Wood Element gives us two other important gifts, our physical mobility and flexibility. Here we want to emphasize that the development of flexibility happens as strongly in the mental capacity as in the physical. A good analogy of a flexible nature in someone can be seen in a bamboo tree. No matter which direction the wind blows, bamboo will stand upright over and over again. The following exercise is an example of how you can bring this experience to a family or small group of children. It creates a lot of movement involving rolling, turning and stretching that is good for everyone. Above all, it is really fun and brings laughter and play into the dynamics of any group.

June Wood imageThe World is Coloured

Particularly in springtime we experience a large variety of colours in nature. Everything blossoms, budding fresh green leaves and flowers of every hue.  Everywhere you look nature is full of energy and joy for life. The following exercise can bring all of these qualities to everyone in the family or group.

The family members sit down on a big towel of their own, and are told it is a large tub full of different colours, whatever they imagine. Everyone chooses one particular colour that they are sitting in and shares which colour they selected.  Each can say the special reason why the colour they picked is their colour for today. 

Then everybody should “paint himself” –if possible everywhere- with his favourite colour, by turning on his towel, rolling and lolling about. Encourage each to try all the movements possible in their tub.

Then ask, “Is your body totally covered with colour? Well, now let’s paint the floor!“

Everybody rolls and rolls throughout the space. There are obstacles everywhere! If another person is touched, their colours mix. What colour is it now?

After a few minutes everybody sits up.

 “So, now let’s paint the soles of each other’s feet – pick a partner and ask your partner which colour he would like.  Apply the colour firmly on your partner’s soles. When you are done, everybody stand up and make footprints with big or small steps in the whole room! Now, try to walk in the footprints of another person and see what it feels like to walk in their steps.”

Everybody has to go under a shower afterwards. Everyone searches for a place in the room for himself/herself and shakes the colours off vigorously under their shower.

To end, everyone must hop until they are dry!

The physical activity of this exercise allows the Wood Element’s need for large movements, imagination, loud noises, and stretching for everyone.  Allow the dynamics of the group to unfold. There might be natural directors that appear as others ideas and creativity come and go. Give room for each to experience and work out what might be difficult or easy in the interactions and instructions. Experiencing any difficulty is as important as experiencing the ease in all of the Five Element exercises, as participants have the opportunity to try out new solutions.

If anger appears, allow this. Anger is the natural response to frustration and the emotion expressed in the Wood Element. Activities that give children permission to experiment with anger, supports healthy development as they learn how to manage this strong energy. For those that struggle moving through this emotion, the following exercise can be added:

Lightning Power

Kalbantner-Wern_Children-at-The_978-1-84819-118-1_colourjpg-webSit without shoes on a chair.  Cling your toes into the floor and tense all the muscles of your feet.

Now imagine a lightning bolt which sends the anger down into the floor. If the child likes he/she can also clench the hands and make a grimace with the face.

After a while relax and enjoy how much lighter everything feels now.

We invite you to look for what comes next month as we enter into the Fire Element and season of summer. This article can be downloaded in a pdf format by clicking on this link so that you can start creating a notebook of Five Element exercises that will be offered each month. You can find more information and examples of how the Five Elements support development in children in the book, Children at Their Best: Understanding and Using the Five Elements to Develop Children’s Full Potential for Parents, Teachers, and Therapists, published by Singing Dragon.

NEXT: July Fire Element Activities – nicking socks and making faces


Shōnishin: the many applications of non-invasive acupuncture – by Thomas Wernicke


Shōnishin is a non-invasive form of acupuncture developed specifically to respond to the needs of children. Instead of needles gentle stimulation all over the body is performed with a tool, which is rather like a nail, by different stroking techniques. In addition to the stroking techniques, different tapping techniques are used in certain areas and vibration techniques on acupuncture points.

In the past few years a steadily increasing interest in Shōnishin has become noticeable outside its home country of Japan, especially in Europe, Britain, and the United States.

So what makes Shōnishin so popular with therapists, parents and children? There are many reasons:

  • Therapists see Shōnishin as a way of developing as a practitioner
  • The treatment is simple and effective, and the successes speak for themselves
  • Children love this treatment as it has a pleasant feel to them
  • Parents are very accepting of the treatment as it is gentle and non-invasive.

Another reason for the spreading of Shōnishin is that this treatment method can be used field-specifically. Depending on the therapist’s professional background, as a doctor, alternative practitioner, Shiatsu-practitioner, physiotherapist or midwife, the patient collective, and thereby the indications, are different.

By way of example, approximately 70-80% of all midwifes in Germany have an acupuncture education – and thereby are qualified to practice Shōnishin. For them, Shōnishin offers great opportunities to support newborn babies suffering from feeding difficulties, abdominal pain, developmental problems or even excessive crying. In the event of a needle phobia, Shōnishin is an alternative for pregnant women while preparing for birth or as a supporting treatment for women who have recently given birth and suffer from involutional problems or blocked milk ducts.

The area of application of Shōnishin for orthopedics is completely different from that of midwives. Their focus is mainly on children with problems related to posture and the musculoskeletal system. On the other hand pediatricians apply Shōnishin with infants suffering from problems of the digestive system, the respiratory system or developmental disorders, whereas allergies and neurodermatitis are in the foreground with older children.

General practitioners are finding the technique useful for children or adolescents with concentration problems in school, ADHD or enuresis.

Shiatsu practitioners often apply Shōnishin in combination with baby-shiatsu or children-shiatsu, in order to support them in their development. Physiotherapists can show better successes in the treatment of hemiparetic children, as the usually increased tonicity can be decreased by additional treatment with Shōnishin and thereby the children become more treatable.

shonishinFor acupuncturists, especially for those who focus on treating children, a new field of action comes in appearance with Shōnishin, respectively an existing one can be widened. Furthermore, Shōnishin is an interesting supplement – or even an alternative for any therapist with acupuncture knowledge using manual methods.

Shōnishin is being used as an alternative to acupuncture in women’s shelters, mother-child facilities and nurseries. In this case women and children who are in difficult social or monetary situations, abandoned, without any obvious way out, are supported. These include traumatised women and children (for instance victims of rape), who are only able to permit touching due to the “interposed” Shōnishin instrument which means no dermal contact with the skin takes place.

Another field of application for Shōnishin will be in the treatment of the elderly. Particular parameters like skin conditions and mental conditions seem to show retrogression into childhood. First experiences with Shōnishin in residential care homes show promising treatment approaches. Even here it becomes obvious, that treatment with a Shōnishin instrument is advantageous: seniors often suffer from a shortage of physical contact. With Shōnishin the contact doesn’t take place directly, but indirectly with an instrument. For that reason seniors have no fear of contact and are willing to allow the treatment.  Another advantage of treating elderly people with Shōnishin is that many of them have to take blood-thinning medicines. Due to the non-invasive and gentle treatment technique with Shōnishin, there is no contraindication.


Shōnishin is about to play an important role in the treatment of children. Shōnishin finds its application in doctor’s or acupuncturist’s surgeries, midwife work and increasingly in clinics. During the last years we can observe in the framework of congresses (TCM, acupuncture, pediatrics) an increasing demand for Shōnishin lectures and events. An increasing number of doctors and non-doctors (alternative practitioner, physiotherapists, midwives, Shiatsu-practitioners) are discovering this exceptionally gentle and effective type of treatment.


Thomas Wernicke is a licensed General Practitioner with qualifications in complementary medicine, Chinese and Japanese acupuncture. He has been the Training Manager for Daishi Hari Shōnishin in Europe since 2004. His new book: Shōnishin: The Art of Non-Invasive Paediatric Acupuncture is now available from Singing Dragon. This complete and user-friendly guide provides everything practitioners should know about Shōnishin and how this therapy can be used with different age ranges, especially young children.


Springtime Wood Element activities for children – by Karin Kalbantner-Wernicke and Bettye Jo Wray-Fears

This blog is an invitation to parents, teachers, therapists and mentors of children to join us in having fun with a seasonal series of stimulating Five Element activities that can support development in all ages!  These entries can be downloaded and printed off in pdf format by clicking this link so that you can enjoy making your own notebook of Five Element exercises for each month and season of the year.  We hope you have as much fun being creative with these ideas and projects as we have with many children and families.

May Wood imageSince we are beginning this series in springtime we will start with the Wood Element, the perfect place to start any activity with children. Wood Element marks the time of new beginnings and all the bursting energy of creativity and expanding growth like the first spring flowers breaking through the ground and fresh green buds on the trees and bushes. If you have lived in a place that has long, cold winters, you know the antsy feeling of wanting to move, jump, and stretch in every direction to greet the sun and warm air of the coming spring! This is exactly what children feel physically as they are developing gross and fine motor skills and testing them out for the first time, or emotionally and cognitively as they are learning new activities and seeing the possibilities of what they can do next from their new development!

The following exercises can be used with a family, classroom, or group of children to experience qualities of Wood:

 A Tree in the Forest

Have the group of participants get comfortable and read the visualization below.

Imagine you are a seedling of your favorite tree or plant in the earth. You can feel other seedlings around you nestled in the soil tucked up tight with the earth and each other to keep warm from the cold of winter.  But now the earth is getting warmer.  You feel something growing bigger inside you day by day.  You feel itchy and antsy to let it out, until finally the energy gets so strong that it bursts out in every direction!  Your roots shoot down into the soil, and your trunk, branches, and leaves up and out towards the sun.  You feel the roots of the other trees around you and playfully you all race each other toward the sun and sky!  Feel how strong, fresh and new you feel in the freedom to grow!

When finished have everyone draw a picture of what they saw themselves as in a forest with each other. Pick a wall or board to have everyone create the forest with their pictures hanging together.

A Family/Group Springtime Walk

Talk about springtime and get ideas from the group about what they notice with the plants, animals, and colours in nature.  What does their body and air feel like in the room when they talk about this? Wood Element brings the development of imagination, movement, planning and creativity. Allow all ideas, there are no right or wrong answers.  Let them express how they experience and relate this time of year to themselves.  After everyone has a chance to share, get ready for a walk outside and invite all to pick one item up from nature that reminds them of spring.  When you get back from the walk, place all the items found on a table or cloth for everyone to touch and admire. This can be left on a season table somewhere in the room or house, and the children can be invited to continue to add items and be creative with the table throughout the season. Remember, that it is not about looking perfect to the adult eyes!  Let the children find all the awkward and balanced expressions of Wood Element and have fun seeing what they create. Permission to play and express is the key to growth.

Splitting the Tree

Every Element has an emotion associated with its development. The creative energy of the Wood Element brings emotions of frustration and anger when this dynamic desire cannot Kalbantner-Wern_Children-at-The_978-1-84819-118-1_colourjpg-webmove. This last exercise we offer is to support the healthy movement of anger. Use pillows, plastic bat, cardboard tube, anything safe to allow a child to get as physically active as she/he needs to express their emotion.

Imagine a big trunk of a tree on the floor in front of you. With an axe, you want to use all your power to split the trunk. But it is so hard to do that you get really angry! Take all your energy and power and keep striking the trunk until you feel tired and can rest, feeling calm.

For more information about the Five Elements and the way they can support child development, read Children at Their Best: Understanding and Using the Five Elements to Develop Children’s Full Potential for Parents, Teachers, and Therapists released in April 2014 with Singing Dragon.

NEXT: June Wood Element activities – a colourful world and lightning power!

Using Shiatsu to Support Infant Development, Step by Step: An Interview with Karin Kalbantner-Wernicke

‘An important part of what we do is trying to put parents and baby in a different connection, where the parents are more aware about the needs of the baby – and also aware of their own needs.’

In this interview, author and Shiatsu practitioner Karin Kalbantner Wernicke recounts the travels through Japan that helped her to compile the techniques that form Baby Shiatsu, describing the very real benefits that these techniques can bring to parents and to babies from both Eastern and Western medical practice.

Picture of Karin Kalbantner-Wernicke

What is Baby Shiatsu and why is it so important for young children?

Baby Shiatsu is a special form of Shiatsu which really looks into the development of the baby from both a Western and Eastern viewpoint. It follows what we know about infant development from Western medicine, but we also use the Eastern viewpoint to look at how the meridians develop. When you use both approaches together, they give a more complete understanding of a child’s development, and of the interaction between parents and children.

It is also really important, in our opinion, that Baby Shiatsu supports the child at the stage they are at in the present, without any preconceived ideas of what the child should be doing either now or later on in life. When doing Baby Shiatsu, we are just thinking about what is necessary for the child now, and what a parent can do now to help their child take their next step in their own time.

Baby Shiatsu also offers so much support for the little daily problems – when babies are teething, when they can’t sleep, if they have gas. There are so many simple techniques from Shiatsu that parents can use to support their child.

How did you develop this approach?

That’s a long story! Many years ago I studied Shiatsu and I lived in Japan. While I was there, I was of course influenced by their approaches to health. After coming back to Germany I met my husband who had previously worked as a doctor in the Philippines. As he was also interested in Oriental Medicine we went together to Japan where he studied Shonishin (special acupuncture for children). I’m also a physical therapist, and my husband is a doctor, and we both specialise in working with children and babies.

When we were in Japan, we wanted to understand how all of these different therapies help children and babies – where they differ and what they have in common. So we travelled around Japan, we made a film, and we analysed what different therapists were doing and the impacts that these different techniques had. We also met families who used techniques passed from mother to mother to mother, through the generations. During this time, we discovered many techniques and views, and we put them together with what we already knew from theory and practice. You see, in Japan one thing that we saw was that sometimes, even though the techniques worked wonderfully well, the therapists themselves couldn’t explain why they worked. We, with our education in oriental medicine, modern physiotherapy and western development could really see how these varied approaches support one another, and how they work together. This is what Baby Shiatsu is based on, but it is growing year by year. New studies and observations continue to bring out new ideas and techniques, and we take this all in, as well as feedback that we get from parents and colleagues.

What are the changes that you see when you work with children?

You can see many changes – for example, when you do Baby Shiatsu in the hand and arm with a baby, suddenly the baby can develop a real consciousness of their hand – you see them realise ‘this is my hand!’

But what is really important for us is to teach parents to see what their baby or young child needs – when it’s time for a break, when it’s time to cuddle, when it’s just time to do nothing. When this baby becomes conscious of their hand, he or she needs time to lay there, to look at their hand, to touch their hand, whereas most of the time the parent just wants to go on. It’s difficult to understand when to slow down. Nowadays, parents want so much for their baby. An important part of what we do is trying to put parents and baby in a different connection, where the parents are more aware about the needs of the baby – and also aware of their own needs.

In your book you show that Baby Shiatsu can also be used to help parents support themselves – can you tell us about that?

There is a Japanese saying: ‘If you want to strengthen the baby, strengthen first the mother or father.’ When we are doing mother-baby shiatsu classes it’s very important to always work on the same developmental theme, or Qi flow, with both baby and mother. Nowadays, more and more fathers and mothers are coming together to sessions with baby and that’s great – it really supports the whole family and many of these techniques get great feedback from the parents. Parents can even use the techniques that we teach them on each other if they have any problems.

Baby Shiatsu is so simple to use, and because we don’t use oil and the baby remains clothed you can do it everywhere – if you have a few minutes to spare you can do it with the hands, or with the feet. It’s really very practical.

© 2012 Singing Dragon blog. All Rights Reserved.

Singing Dragon Wins Gold at the 2011 Living Now Book Awards

We are pleased to announce that four Singing Dragon books have won prizes at the 2011 Living Now Book Awards, including two first place Gold prizes!

Singing Dragon received the Gold prize in the Enlightenment/Spirituality category for The 12 Chinese Animals: Create Harmony in your Daily Life through Ancient Chinese Wisdom by Master Zhongxian Wu.

Singing Dragon also received the Gold prize in the Yoga/Pilates/Bodywork category for Yoga Therapy for Every Special Child by Nancy Williams.

And in the Exercise/Fitness category, Singing Dragon scooped two prizes: the Silver for Vital Healing: Energy, Mind and Spirit in Traditional Medicines of India, Tibet & the Middle East – Middle Asia, by Dr Marc S. Micozzi, and the Bronze for Managing Stress with Qigong by Gordon Faulkner.

The Living Now Book Awards celebrate the innovation and creativity of new books that enhance the quality of our lives, from cooking and fitness to relationships and mature living. Visit www.livingnowawards.com for more info.

Congratulations to the authors, contributors, editors and everyone who worked on the winning books! Click below to learn more about each one.

Copyright © Singing Dragon 2011.