Saturday, November 13, 2010

How can I get a wiggly kid to sit still?

Ms. Dorothy -
I have a little guy who won't sit still! He is always tipping his chair, and even falls out of his chair sometimes! He doesn't seem to mind, but it makes me crazy because it disrupts everyone around him! Is there a trick to getting wiggly kids to settle down and stay still?
-1st grade teacher

I'm so glad you didn't try and diagnose and drug this child, or ask me to! Lots of kids are wiggly by nature, and it is really hard for them to stay still.

I think you hit upon the only real reason we would expect them to be still - so they don't disrupt others. The truth is that those wiggly children often can't concentrate when they are still, so it certainly isn't for the sake of their own learning that we'd make them stop moving.

When you consider that many of us fidget, doodle, jiggle a foot, or tap a pencil when we are trying to concentrate, you can see that refraining from movement doesn't need to be the goal. What we need to do is provide children with strategies for moving that help them to focus while letting others focus at the same time.

I recommend a one legged stool. Often you can ask your school Occupational Therapist or Physical Therapist to locate one for your student. I've even had parents build them for my classroom in the past. A one-legged stool requires two feet on the floor (so make sure it is the right height for your wiggly guy) to keep it in balance. The act of holding the chair upright focuses the child's energy in a way that frees up their mind to concentrate on the task in front of them. Other children like to try the chair, but it is only those who really need to wiggle that find the chair comfortable for working.

I know some people who like to use a fitness ball chair and say it works the same way, but I'm kind of attached to my one-legged stool.

You can also get strips of rubbery material to tie around the feet of the child's chair. This will give him a place to put his feet, to bounce his feet, even to kick at while he is sitting.

I would still want to be sure that this guy is getting enough time to be active in his day. When it's time to work in one place for a little while, give him some tools to help him focus his mental and physical energy in the way that best suits his learning. And remember, too much time sitting in one place will make anyone wiggly!

1 comment:

  1. First, Ms. Dorothy, I love how your blog springs from real questions from real people. You are no doubt blending many experiences in the classroom over the years into each answer, yet the fact that the starting point is a meaningful question from an individual person makes it all so visceral.

    And then to this post specifically- the one legged stool is brilliant! Yet so is the general principle expressed here. I'm sure that you apply this type of creative thought process to many challenges; keep your posts coming!