“Help! My child won’t stop fidgeting!”
Kids love to fidget, they love to explore the world, touching, tasting, squashing and squeezing everything they like the look of. Children do this for a reason – they are learning and children are whole body, multi-sensory learners, meaning they use their whole body to get as much information about the world around them as possible.
Here’s our top 5 tips for dealing with a fidgety child
1.Are they ready to sit down and pay attention? Children up to 5 or 6 years old just aren’t ready to sit down and pay attention.
Their world is ruled by exploration and to get the best learning from young children you must always play to their strengths. That’s why you’ll often find nurseries and early years settings with learning stations where children can learn by choosing what they want to play with and exploring the resources with their hands, eyes, voices, and all their senses. Young children will not be able to sit down and pay attention the way we expect adults to, but that’s ok, we just need to consider how best they learn and adjust our approach to meet their needs.
2. What does ready to learn really look like?
The popular idea of children ready to learn is sat, legs crossed, arms crossed, silent and looking at the teacher. In reality this is a very difficult position for most children to maintain. Most people will find themselves continually adjusting their position to make themselves comfortable so it isn’t really acceptable to assume children will sit still as statues for beyond a minute or so. What research tells us is that children need to move and fidget to maintain their concentration. Some will start touching things around them, like clothing or other children or twiddling hair. Some children will chew or nibbles their jumpers or fingers. Some children will make noises or move or rock. This “fidgeting” behaviour constantly updates the child’s brain about what is going on around them and actually helps them pay attention.
3. Feed the fidget.
If a child needs to fidget to maintain their concentration, then let them do just that. Provide small fidget toys to help them be more discreet and less distracting for other class members. Use a wobble cushion or allow them to sit on a gym ball if they need to be on the move. For kids that love to chew on their hands or clothes try purpose made necklaces and bracelets for chewing. These are semi hard, usually silicone based shapes made to tolerate chewing.
4. Make a quiet area.
Some children find it difficult to filter out the noise and bustle of a classroom or nursery. A quiet corner should be simply decorated with muted colours and soft textiles, where the child can spend time with a task that requires their full attention such as reading.
5. Encourage outdoor play.
Encourage children to make the most of their break time with gross motor activities such as outdoor music and dancing, climbing, running and jumping. Allowing a gross motor heavy break time helps the child “decompress” from the classroom environment and allows their levels of alertness to increase.