How Do You Deal With Fidgety Children?

Fidgety children can be a handful for parents. Their constant motion and inability to sit still can be frustrating and exhausting. As a mother of two energetic kids myself, I spoke with two other mothers, Jane and Amanda, to get their perspectives on managing fidgety children.

Jane has a seven year old son named Timmy who has always been an active child. “Timmy has always been a wiggle worm, even as a baby he hated being confined in a swing or bouncy chair for too long,” Jane said. Once Timmy started school, his teacher informed Jane that he had a hard time sitting still during lessons and was distracted by looking around the room and fidgeting with items on his desk.

To help Timmy focus, Jane provides him with fidget toys that he can play with subtly at his desk, like bendable figurines, squishy stress balls, or spinners. She also makes sure he gets plenty of physical activity and outdoor playtime after school so he can release his pent up energy. At home, Jane sets up obstacle courses for Timmy in the yard or takes him to the park to run around which helps satisfy his need to move.

“I also try to find physical or hands-on activities we can do together, like arts and crafts, baking, or putting together models. Keeping Timmy engaged in an activity focuses his energy in a positive way,” Jane explained. When he needs to sit and do homework, Jane lets Timmy get up periodically to stretch or takes short active breaks between assignments to refresh him. Providing a visual timer helps keep Timmy aware of time limits for sitting as well.

Amanda’s four year old daughter Lucy is also inclined to fidget, though her behavior looks different than Timmy’s. “Lucy doesn’t run and jump around constantly, but she has a habit of squirming in her seat, touching everything around her, and just seeming restless when she’s supposed to be paying attention,” said Amanda.

At preschool, Lucy’s teachers noted she was very distracted during story time and group activities because she would be looking around the room, playing with her shoes, or swaying in her spot. Amanda has found the best way to handle Lucy’s fidgety behavior is providing her with tactile stimulation through various toys and objects.

“I let Lucy keep a box of paperclips, rubber bands, beads, pipe cleaners, stress balls, and other little manipulatives that she can play with discreetly in her hands while listening to a teacher or working on an activity. Having something to occupy her sense of touch helps her focus better,” Amanda explained. “I also make sure she has a fidget toy clipped to her car seat for long drives since being confined makes her antsy.”

Like Jane, Amanda builds plenty of movement breaks into Lucy’s day at home. If Lucy needs to sit and color or do a puzzle, Amanda sets a timer for 10-15 minutes then lets her get up and dance or stretch for a few minutes before returning to the task. Providing sensory rich activities like playing with slime, water beads, sand, or finger painting also gives Lucy’s hands something constructive to do.

Both Jane and Amanda stressed the importance of communicating with their child’s teachers to make sure fidgety behavior is not misinterpreted as bad behavior and to explore options for meeting the child’s needs. Movement breaks, fidget objects, sensory tools, and providing structured hands-on learning activities were key strategies they used at home to help manage their kids’ restlessness. They also emphasized adapting expectations based on the child’s needs and personality.

“My main advice is don’t fight the fidgets, work with them. Trying to force a wiggly child to sit totally still and focused for long periods will just lead to frustration. Be flexible and give them outlets for their energy, and they can thrive,” Jane offered. Though dealing with constant motion can be tiring, giving fidgety kids the space and tools to channel their restlessness constructively helps everyone find a balance.