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Wiggle while you work

Tiernan McKay is a freelance writer based in Denver, Colorado. Her writing has appeared in magazines such as Alive!, Occupational Health and Safety, Restaurants and Institutions, Tampa Bay and Arizona Woman. Right now, she is either ridi...

Homework with a wiggly child

If you have a wiggly child, you know how hard it is to keep him focused on the task at hand, especially when it comes to homework. If you’re tired of asking him to sit still, here’s an idea: Stop!

Allowing your child to wiggle while he works will allow him to be more productive and happier! While it may seem counter intuitive, wiggling may actually create a calmer atmosphere in which parents are less stressed and kids are more productive.

Is this normal?

If your child never seems to sit still, you’ve probably exhausted yourself trying to keep up. While you watch your little one seemingly bounce and vibrate, particularly while doing her homework, take heart (and a deep breath)! You are not alone… and your child is not abnormal. "Most often, parents aren’t looking at a child’s behavior as a means of communications," says Becky Blake, a Ph.D. psychoneurology candidate and a child development expert. "Some parents take behavior personally and many feel wiggly behavior is a sign of boredom, a lack of attention or their child messing around. They are mistaken."

Read about the difference between bad behavior and ADHD >>

Why the wiggles?

Sometimes parents can coexist perfectly with their wiggly child without being distracted or concerned. Other times, the constant movement can leave a parent wondering if "sitting still" is just a figure of speech. So, why do kids wiggle? According to Blake, there are three main reasons for wiggly behavior:

Reflexes not integrated

Sitting in a chair fires off several reflexes in the back and on the legs telling us to move, to get up and wiggle.

Possible tactile sensitivities

Some kids move to alleviate sensations of pain or discomfort caused by pressure from, for example, a chair.

Hands-on learner

Some kids learn kinesthetically and need to move in order to process information.

Find out how to create a fun homework space for kids >>

What not to do

"Sit still!" It may be tempting to utter those two little words when the wiggling just doesn’t end, but doing so may be an exercise in futility. "The child will try to comply and may stop, but that cessation is of short duration," says Dr. Jennifer Little, an educational psychologist. "Something has to give, and something will move!" The truth is, you may be able to complete busy work like paying bills and writing thank you cards without wiggling, but your child is a unique being with her own quirks, needs and tendencies. As parents, it’s our job to create an environment in which our kids can thrive, especially while doing activities such as homework.

Find out how to make homework fun for kids >>

Practical tips

Dr. Little offers the following tips for parents helping their wiggly child complete a task that requires focus and concentration (like homework):

  • Let her stand beside the table or counter.
  • Let him have five minutes to move around after 10-15 minutes on task (set a timer for each phase).
  • Set up a reward for when the task(s) is/are done within a finite length of time (5-15 minutes, depending upon the age of the child).
  • Let him run a lap around the house (outside) between assignments.
  • Let her choose how and in what order assignments/tasks are to be done (sometimes taking a break from one to do another and return back to it is sufficient to maintain her attention).

Read more about kids and homework

What type of learner is your child?
Are homework expectations realistic for our children?
How long should homework take?

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