Home support How do you help a child, who can not sit still? Practical tips and reasons

How do you help a child, who can not sit still? Practical tips and reasons

by ines.wurbs@icloud.com

Many children are tense. Our children fidget even more than we would like, especially when we parents can’t take it. The problem is that it usually makes us nervous, which makes the situation more stressful. But why aren’t so many children able to sit still for a moment? Is my child prone to hyperactivity?

Many parents have asked themselves this question, especially since it became more popular in the media. In fact, symptoms, such as fidgeting, are rarely sufficient for a clinical diagnosis. I will explain other reasons, what exactly you should consider, and, above all, what you can do about it.

Why children can’t sit still

It may seem easy for adults to sit still, but it is quite difficult. The process of sitting still requires a lot of concentration. You can try it for yourself. Please try to sit still for longer than you normally would. For people who don’t do it that often, let’s say 30 or 45 minutes, and 90 minutes for everyone else. Without going back and forth. Just stay in your seat and work.

It’s not as easy as you might think. Furthermore, our little darlings usually do not allow us to focus on an activity for 90 minutes.

At least that’s how our kids feel. We don’t get born with the ability to focus and sit still, we have to learn them first. But it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and practice.

Toddlers can only focus for 5–15 minutes. An average of 10 minutes can be expected from 5-year-olds. This includes sitting still and also pursuing an occupation. We often ask our children more than they can. It is certainly possible that it is important for our children to concentrate on something for a longer period of time. Creating a balance is important for your child.

Ageworking hoursBreak
3 – 5 years10 mins5 minutes
6 – 8 years20 minutes5 minutes
9 – 12 years40–45 minutes10 mins
from 12 years50 minutes5–10 minutes
Concentration time and breaks for children

Numerous studies have indicated that children should engage in physical activity while concentrating. This can also often be seen when our children are tired. The prefrontal cortex, as this part of the brain, is called, tries to keep from getting tired. Our bodies do this best with movement.

Even if we try to suppress our movements, we still move our bodies in small ways. This response is normal and is a protective response in our brain.

The need to move is part of who we are. Some kids are more active than others. If you notice that the movement helps your child focus, it’s a good idea to use it in learning. Children who learn and sit still are already outdated.

There are of course tasks that require sitting still, such as writing. That should be practiced as well. But always with breaks and phases of movement.


Taking regular breaks and giving children time to let off steam can help them have more stamina.

What can I do to help my child to sit still?

There are many situations where your child needs to calm down. Here, I have a few tips for you. Try these tips to help your child calm down:

  • concentration games (see below)
  • Children’s meditation
  • Read a book together
  • Hear a soothing song
  • Game picture: You demonstrate slow movements and your child should imitate you
  • Let yourself be looked at in the mirror
  • Build a cave and let them play in it
  • Stop-and-go: Let your child move freely and when you say stop, they have to stand still for a while before you free them.
  • Knead the stress ball
  • play with modeling dough
  • To draw
  • Count backward with your child
  • Stretch and breathe deeply in and out
  • Playing with sand, Kinetic Sand, for example, is ideal for indoor use. My kids love the hot one.
  • Dumping tasks: i.e. decanting things into different containers
  • Have something sorted: I am personally a big fan of this Surplex sorting game because it has so many great options and promotes different areas at the same time.

My child is constantly moving and talking

When our children are tired, they crank it up again. The brain is trying to fight off fatigue. It’s hard to calm our children down in these situations.

Words usually have little effect here, since our children are so overwhelmed by the situation that they can no longer pay attention to what we say and understand it. What do we do in these situations?

  1. Make eye contact with your child.
  2. Possibly physical contact (hand on shoulder).
  3. Give clear instructions.
  4. Don’t blame, it only creates resistance.
  5. Bring your child into a quiet, non-stimulating environment.
  6. Give your child enough time to calm down (this can take an hour or more).
  7. Offer your child quiet activities (see concentration exercises below).
  8. Stick to your activity and keep trying to bring your kid back to quiet play.
  9. Sometimes it is also good for children if their body is gently weighed down, for example with weighted blankets, but a heavier cushion is also possible. But please ensure that it isn’t too heavy or covers their head.

More about calming children and bedtime can be found here. (LINK)

ADHD and ADD: Is my child hyperactive?

This overview is intended to provide you with information and orientation so that you can get an impression of exactly what we are talking about and what you should be paying attention to. Basic information can be found on this list. If you have any concerns, please consult your doctor.

According to the diagnostic classification system DSM IV, the following criteria must be met for a diagnosis:

Basic Features:

  • Disturbance of attention with lack of persistence in occupations and tendency to change occupations before they are completed.
  • Restless behavior, particularly with the inability to sit still.
  • Impulsivity, e.g. with abrupt motor and/or verbal actions that do not fit the social context.

Symptoms must (usually) appear before 6 and have been present for at least 6 months.

But it is also pointed out in the diagnosis manual that all symptoms before the age of 6 can also occur as a result of developmental phases and are therefore also normal! If you have any concerns or are unsure, please speak to your pediatrician. If necessary, he/she will forward you to the correct address.

More on this topic can be found here: My child has ADHD and is particularly excited in the evenings.

Criteria for inattention:

According to the ICD 10 diagnosis manual, children must be at least 6 months old and show at least 6 of the following characteristics to be diagnosed.

The children:

  • Are often inattentive to details or make careless mistakes,
  • are often unable to maintain attention during tasks and play
  • often do not seem to hear what is said to them, 
  • often cannot follow explanations or fulfill their tasks,
  • are bad at organizing
  • avoid tasks that require perseverance,
  • often lose important items, 
  • are often distracted
  • are often forgetful in everyday activities.

Criteria for overactivity:

Here, at least 3 symptoms that are not appropriate to the stage of development, must be observed for at least 6 months.

The children:

  • Often fidgets with hands and feet or cannot sit still.
  • Leave their seat in situations where they are expected to remain seated,
  • often run around or climb excessively in situations where it is inappropriate.
  • Are often unnecessarily noisy or find it difficult to engage in quiet activities,
  • frequently exercise persistently and a lot, even though it is inappropriate, this maladjustment or prohibition does not really have an impact, and it is not avoided. 

Criteria for impulsiveness:

For at least 6 months, at least 1 criterion must be observed that does not correspond to the development status.

The children:

  • Often interrupts others when they are talking and blurts out the answer early
  • often cannot wait in line or wait for their turn in games,
  • often interrupt and disturb others, interfere,
  • often talk a great deal without responding adequately to social constraints.

Here, too, starting before the age of 7 is important. The symptoms should also occur in several areas of life (e.g. at home and school) and be perceived as an impairment. Other diseases must also be ruled out.

So, you see, it’s not easy, and you should definitely seek professional advice and support from your pediatrician if you are concerned about this.

For more information, you can also read here at nhs.uk.

Concentration exercises for children

  • puzzle
  • Sudoku or similar games
  • Color mandala
  • paint by numbers
  • lay mosaics
  • All board games
  • swing exercises
  • I pack my suitcase, play
  • Count backward
  • To describe a way
  • invent history
  • Memory
  • listening memory
  • City-Country-River
  • decant water
  • Throw horseshoes or rings
  • Rhyme
  • Describe and guess the person
  • Make a chain out of a paper clip or other threading games
  • Touch objects blindfolded
  • troubleshooting images
  • Hidden Object Books
  • solve mazes
  • Learn tongue twisters
  • What does not belong in the phrase? (rabbit, fox, deer, banana, hedgehog for example)
  • The hangman game
  • find opposites

I have even more concentration exercises for kindergarten children here for you.

If you need further information about puberty and concentration, and you want to know what is different in this turbulent time, I have also written a post for you here.

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