For many teachers, it can be hard to teach class when students are wiggling around in their seats or on the rug during instruction. Though it may be difficult to determine exactly why children fidget and have difficulty paying attention there are things that teachers can do to help!
Some children might fidget in an effort to pay attention to the teacher. These children are often classified as “low arousal” children who need more movement to keep their bodies upright and to participate in the classroom. Other children might be fidgety because they are constantly seeking out sensory experiences from their environment to get a better understanding of where their body is in space.
Some children might fidget because they do not have the trunk control to maintain a static muscle contraction in order to sit upright. Other children might be overly sensitive to light touch and might be bothered by the way the chair or rug feels on their body, how their clothing feels, or how close their classmate is sitting next to them.
Below are some strategies for teachers to help their students with fidgety behaviors in the classroom:
• Provide students with seating surfaces, such as a Move’N’Sit cushion or therapy ball to give their body sensory input.
• Incorporate heavy work activities into the daily classroom routine: animal walks, wheelbarrow walks, carrying books, holding the door, chair push-ups, or climbing at recess. All of these can provide a child with sensory input to help them attend throughout the day.
• Focus on the placement of seats in the classroom: put more space between classmates if a student does not like light touch; give a seating assignment close to the front if they are easily distracted; or have them sit against a wall during rug time to assist with trunk control and attention.
• Provide students with movement breaks: get up and have the class stretch, do jumping jacks, or yoga poses to provide them with sensory information.