Why Kids Can't Sit Still & How To Help

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Back to school shopping is in full swing and kids everywhere are shifting gears as summer draws to an end. In addition to filling backpacks and stocking lockers, families should think about establishing routines and setting up home workspaces that are conducive to homework. It's worth asking: what's the problem with school environments and what can be done to mitigate those challenges at home?

In June, TimberNook Camps founder Angela Hanscom wrote a blog post, Why Children Fidget And What We Can Do About It. The post took on a life of its own, getting picked up by the Washington Post in early July and HuffPo last week. I saw it crop up repeatedly across social media channels, raising concern among teachers and parents. Noting the rise of attention issues and ADHD diagnoses, Hanscom's post paints a sobering picture of typically developing kids who are too fidgety to pay attention in school:

The problem: children are constantly in an upright position these days. It is rare to find children rolling down hills, climbing trees, and spinning in circles just for fun. Merry-go-rounds and teeter-totters are a thing of the past. Recess times have shortened due to increasing educational demands, and children rarely play outdoors due to parental fears, liability issues, and the hectic schedules of modern-day society. Lets face it: Children are not nearly moving enough, and it is really starting to become a problem.

Hanscom evaluated children in several classrooms at an art-integrated charter school and found that, compared to kids in the early 80s, only one in twelve students demonstrated normal strength and balance. Insufficient movement is resulting in underdeveloped vestibular systems, so these kids' bodies are not primed for learning. Hanscom makes a case for daily outdoor play, and as far as I'm concerned she is barging through an open door. The bigger problem: as teachers face increased curricular demands, play time at school is dwindling.

  • Try to create opportunities for core strengthening and gross motor play in your child's day.
  • Get outside whenever possible.
  • If schedules and geography permit, ride bikes to school.
  • Make a detour at the swing set, go jump on a trampoline, and choose extracurricular activities that promote core strength. Think martial arts, yoga, swimming, and ice skating.
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(Image credits: Ashley Poskin; PB Teen)