Stop Fidgeting! 3 Strategies for Kids Who Need to Move

strategies for fidgety kids
Image via Katie Hurley

I once worked with a kid who never stopped moving. He was funny, bright, animated, and kind, but he truly never stopped moving. He couldn't. He had his best ideas when jumping up and down or kicking a ball or throwing something against my office wall. Movement, although distracting to his classmates, helped him focus. Movement kept him engaged.

It took some trial and error to find strategies to help him get his fidgeting out without disrupting his class every few minutes. A stress ball helped during quiet activities like tests and writing assignments, but it was a small fix for a larger problem.

Kids are sitting for longer periods of time in school. Recess is shorter, academics are intense, and homework cuts into playtime.

Some kids need to move.

Even kids who can typically sit still for long periods find themselves squirmy under the pressure that kids endure right now.

Kids need to use their hands, move their feet, and play outside. While nothing can substitute for fresh air and playful exercise, there are ways to help squirmy kids get their squirms out without getting in trouble in school every time they move too much.

dancing in the kitchen
Image via Flickr/ timlewisnm

Start the day with movement:

Believe me, I understand. School mornings go by in a flash and there isn't time for much of anything, but sometimes adding a little movement to the morning routine can help kids prepare for the day ahead.

Factor in a ten-minute dance party. Set up an indoor obstacle course the night before. Walk to school, if you can, or try to get to school ten minutes early to play on the recess field or play structure.

{ MORE: I Was the Perfect Mom ... and Then I Had Kids }

stability chair
Image via Flickr/ jessica mullen

Consider changes to the school desk:

Sitting in a chair all day can be tiring. When kids slouch, they become tired and disengage from the learning process. They zone out, stop listening, and start fidgeting. There is a simple solution for that.

Many classrooms now use stability (or yoga) balls in the place of traditional desk chairs. By engaging their bodies, kids are able to keep their brains engaged in the learning process. The result? Improved concentration and attention, and they can get their wiggles out with a few small bounces at the right time.

I recently sat on my daughter's stability ball chair during back-to-school night and was pleasantly surprised by it. I thought that I would miss learning back on the chair but, as it turns out, I was much more engaged during the teacher's presentation.

Check with your child's teacher to see if stability balls are an option. If not, consider using one during homework time.

Other helpful options: Wiggle seat cushions, Therabands, and footrests under the desk.

wiggle pack
Image via Flickr/ Mike Mozart

Create a wiggle pack:

If you can't change the seating arrangement, you can create a small wiggle pack to keep in the desk. A stress ball is a great strategy for kids who need to release pent up energy while working. Koosh balls are great fidget tools. With a variety of textures, kids can squeeze them, roll them between their hands, or just hold them when they need a break from sitting still. Silly putty is great for stretching and squishing and it generally doesn't make a lot of noises. Coil key rings are fun to stretch, twist, and untwist. A small container of Play Doh can be great for squeezing and shaping while listening.

{ MORE: If You Want Your Kids to Succeed, Tell Their Teachers Your Family Secrets }

Most teachers understand movement is necessary for little kids and factor that into their classroom activities, but don't be afraid to help your little one thrive in school by sharing ideas for fidgety kids and donating a few items to help create a fidget center!

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Stop Fidgeting! 3 Strategies for Kids Who Need to Move

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

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