I was a very active little girl and I do mean, really active. I can remember running through the neighborhood backyards and feeling the need to do so. My grandmother affectionately referred to this as “getting the sillies out”. Not the most technical explanation but my parents sure understood what it meant. When it was time to sit down and read a book or to complete something that required a little concentration, my family knew they had to let me run around for a bit first. Now, as an adult with children of my own, I see that need in my boys.
As an Evaluator for Early Intervention Services parents often ask me, “How can I get my child to calm down so we can read a book or work on a puzzle?” My response is, “By walking, running, jumping, skipping, clapping, crawling, dancing and rolling. These are all great ways to get your child moving and active so that they can then sit and attend for a reasonable period of time.
Some, not all children have a need, yes, an actual need to get some of that energy out. When our dear little ones seem to be bouncing off the walls with physical activity, it seems impossible to get them to sit and look through a picture book with us or to just simply listen. They seem so busy that our words don’t even register with them. Kids tend to be active, but of course, some are more active than others. Is your child the child that you find on top of the counter tops or refrigerator, or the child that you just can’t get to take a nap, even though they are miserably tired? Regardless of whether your child may just be really energetic or if he or she is truly hyperactive, these suggestions can be useful for all children:
- Try to keep a consistent routine: Keeping things roughly the same each day can help your child program their body. They know what to expect and what is coming next. If nap time is typically the same time each day, they will begin to expect that. A consistent sleeping pattern regulates our bodies. Of course, we can’t always keep the routine 100% of the time. But, give it your best shot at consistency.
- Give your child plenty of opportunities to be active: If it’s raining outside, put on some music and dance, hop, wiggle, jump around and get silly, get them moving. You can also walk up and down the stairs a few times. This is not meant to be a strenuous workout for you or your child, just enough to get them active. Go outside, to the park or playground, let them run, jump and play for as long as you are comfortable with.
- Try to avoid lots of juice or drinks and foods that are high in sugar: Why make it harder on yourself and your child? Lots of candy and sweets throughout the day won’t make your day or theirs any easier.
- Try to have periods of activity in short, frequent bursts throughout the day: Being active can help settle down the mind and body. Not Boot camp, just a good 5 to 10 minutes of physical play before settling down to read, color or another type of quiet activity.
Letting children be physically active can also help improve their mood and your own. Aren’t you happy after dancing and carrying on to your favorite songs? Can you think a little more clearly after you have had a brisk walk? Our children often feel the same way though they may not be able to express it with words, but meeting their need for physical activity can help promote their success across all areas of development.
While these tips may not work for every child and they will most certainly not work every time, they may help some children be able to focus, attend or settle down for a little longer than you thought they could. Don’t forget to have fun!