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Reasons Kids May Be Fidgety and Restless

It’s common for children to have bursts of energy and be unable to sit still for long periods of time. However, if your child is constantly fidgeting, squirming, and displaying restless behavior, there may be an underlying cause. Fidgety and hyperactive symptoms in kids can stem from a variety of sources:

ADHD

One of the most likely reasons for fidgeting and restlessness is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by inattention, impulsive behavior, and hyperactivity. Children with ADHD have trouble sitting still and often fidget, tap, wiggle, and squirm. Their hyperactive behavior is compulsive and they have difficulty controlling their impulses.

Anxiety

Excessive fidgeting can also be a sign of anxiety in children. Anxious kids often release nervous energy through restless behaviors like bouncing their legs, chewing on pencils, skin picking, hair twirling, nail biting, and shaking their feet. These fidgety habits help soothe their anxiety, but make it hard to sit still.

Lack of Sleep

Not getting adequate, restful sleep can lead to behavioral issues like hyperactivity and fidgeting. Overtired children tend to be more restless, unfocused, impulsive, and wound up. Ensuring your child gets enough high-quality sleep for their age can help diminish fidgety behavior.

Too Much Sugar

A diet high in sugary foods may exacerbate symptoms of hyperactivity and restlessness. Consuming excess sugar gives kids a jolt of energy, making them extra hyper and unable to sit still. Restricting sugar intake can have a calming effect.

Sensory Processing Issues

Some kids have sensory processing disorder (SPD), which makes them oversensitive to stimuli like noises, touch, and smells. Certain environments or sensations may be overwhelming. Fidgeting is a coping mechanism to self-soothe and discharge excess sensory input. Occupational therapy helps with SPD.

All children tend to get restless and squirmy when they are bored or understimulated by an activity. If the task is not challenging or engaging enough for their skills and interests, fidgety behavior often results. Keeping their minds motivated and providing the right level of stimulation is important.

If your child is constantly fidgeting and hyperactive to the point that it interferes with their daily functioning, consult their pediatrician. An evaluation for ADHD and other possible disorders is recommended. Based on the diagnosis, treatment may involve behavioral therapy, classroom accommodations, sensory integration therapy, parenting techniques, medication or a combination of these.

Providing movement breaks and sensory outlets throughout the day can also help kids release pent-up energy in a productive way. Simple strategies include stretch breaks, breathing exercises, fidget toys, activity balls, and allowing doodling or snacking during class. Structuring physical activity into your child’s schedule is also beneficial.

Determining the reason behind your child’s restless behavior is the first step to helping them manage it effectively. While fidgeting and hyperactivity is normal for kids, excessive levels usually signify an underlying issue. With professional support, accommodation, and home management strategies, restless children can learn coping skills to sit still when necessary.