How To Help A Child Who Struggles To Sit Still

Do you have a child who just loves to move and won't sit still?

For years, we have been taught that children should sit still, to listen and that they shouldn't run indoors or jump or climb on furniture and if I'm honest, it drives me insane.

There are many reasons why children want to be constantly on the move. Your child may not even be making a conscious decision to move and in some cases, there may be an underlying cause contributing to their high-level movement.

For example, some children are not getting enough sensory input for their vestibular processing system (movement and balance) or their proprioceptive system (body awareness).

Other children could possibly be feeling overwhelmed in an environment full of different sensations, while other children will react with bursts of energy due to weak muscle tone and poor posture. 

There are many other reasons why your child may struggle to sit still but there are various strategies you can implement to help your child reach their full potential. 

If your son or daughter struggles to sit still here are five strategies to help encourage them to focus their attention on the task in hand:

  1. Promote a good sleep routine.

    First and foremost, is your child getting a healthy amount of sleep? If a child is getting insufficient sleep at night, it will only have a negative effect on them the next day. Create a comfortable bedtime ritual for your child to allow them to wind down without any distractions at least an hour before bed. 

  2. Offer movement breaks.

    Promote exercise or movement breaks before, during and after school. Children, in general, need physical activity daily but a short walk, sprint, game of catch or simple stretching exercises can help them expel any excess energy. 

  3. Offer a balanced diet.

    Ensure your child is eating a well-balanced diet with plenty of carbs and protein. It is extremely important that your child eats a nutritious breakfast to set them up for the day with foods such as eggs, toast and porridge.  How To Help A Child Who Struggles To Sit Still

  4. Use a sensory aid.

    Some children tend to find sitting their bum flat on a chair uncomfortable and introducing simple aids may encourage them to remain present and engaged. 

    Wiggle cushions will allow them to fidget in their seats in a discreet and appropriate manner. 

    A therapy ball requires a lot more work than a wiggle cushion but it is a great tool for increasing a child's attention while increasing core strength at the same time.

    Kick bands are another aid perfect for helping kids who need to fidget to focus. The elastic exercise bands allow kids to kick against the band to get proprioceptive input and movement discreetly under the table. 

  5. Create a sensory diet.

    If your child's fidgeting is really affecting a home or school life, you may need to book an appointment with an Occupational Therapist. An accredited Occupational Therapist will be able to create a sensory diet for your child which is a special tailor-made list of exercises and strategies used to help regulate and calm a child who fidgets, wiggles and struggles to sit still. 

Kellie Kearney

Kellie Kearney is a Dublin mammy of five kids aged newborn right up to nine. She loves coffee, cloth nappies, travel and sharing her every day true to life family moments on Instagram.

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