Frequently children get into trouble at home and in school because they move too much. They fidget, fall off chairs, or leave their seats when they are expected to remain seated and are generally disruptive to the class. Today we explore why kids move and what to do about it.
Children move at home and in the classroom, for a variety of reasons. In our work we have seen children move too much due to sensory overstimulation, hearing issues and even difficulty seeing. Neurobiological issues such as ADHD, learning issues, developmental differences and delays in social-emotional development may also be factors. As we know from research, younger children in a classroom are diagnosed more with ADHD than their older peers, so we need to consider is this an ages and stages or biological issue. Brain development happens over time and as the brain matures, children often gain better control of their attention, motor inhibition and their emotional responses to social situations.
It’s valuable for us to become detectives and consider what the child gains from excessive movement and how this movement benefits the child. Then we can generate creative solutions to meet the child’s needs without disrupting the classroom environment. First, let us consider a few reasons children move. Then we will look at what we can say and do with our children to help them develop new skills.
Remember, awareness is power. When we help children think about their bodies and better understand their feelings, they can implement new words and actions with greater skill and more confidence.
From a sensory-motor perspective, many children move in order to engage their brains. The motor cortex is located near the frontal lobes. This can cause children to recruit motor neurons, increasing movement when they are expending a lot of energy while thinking. Moving also stimulates neurotransmitters that can have either an energizing or calming effect on the child.
From a social-emotional perspective, hidden feelings may cause children to move excessively to let out their emotions. Helping children name, state, and talk about their feelings, helps them calm their bodies and focus their minds, instead of discharging their feelings with excessive movement.
When your child needs to move to think, he or she can feel badly because the world says, “Hey, sit still.” But sitting still can be difficult, it is our role as parents to provide our children with new words and actions they can use to help them feel more skillful and less criticized. Here are just a few of the many ideas you will find in our upcoming colorful interactive book Bloom, out this Spring.
1. Provide a specific focus for the extra energy. For example, by providing a portable patch of fabric the child can put in a pocket and rub to calm herself. In your new role as a detective, ask if she’d prefer her “touch pad” to be smooth, like silk, or scratchy like Velcro. You could even propose different focal points for her energy on different days, to keep her brain interested. Chewelry, found at http://kidcompanions.com also provides sensory pieces that are smooth and/or bumpy for the child to discretely touch, while sitting in circle time or at a desk.
2. You may need to talk with the teacher and ask if your child can get up and walk to the back of the classroom and stand for a few minutes. Of course, it would be awesome if the teacher would let all the kids do a few yoga moves or stand to stretch in between academic activities. Classrooms where the children do not simply sit all day may be more suitable to your child. If more help is needed, consult an occupational therapist regarding classroom equipment.
As pediatric physical therapist, Shelley Mannell, tells us, sitting on an exercise ball, stool or even standing has been shown to help kids who are squirmy think better. Maybe, the old-fashioned school chair or flat carpet square is not a good answer for your child.
3. If your little toddler-2’s is a squirmy-wormy – that’s age-appropriate. Sue Atkin’s Toddler Made Easy Program can help you parent your toddler.
4. Research tells us that children who exercise learn better. So playing outside, jumping on a trampoline, playing tennis in the drive-way, walking to school, shooting hoops or kicking a soccer ball are all good before and after-school solutions. SPARKEPE is a terrific resource for schools and families.
5. The music at Stress Free Kids by Lori Lite is a favorite of ours.
Share your ideas and resources as well, Parents Know Best!