Like many adults, some kids fidget when they’re bored, distracted, or when they’ve been sitting for too long. Fidgeting helps keep the brain active but can become a distraction to other people when left untamed.
Fidgeting can take on many forms. From drumming their fingers against the desk, to tapping their feet, constantly moving from side to side, clicking their pen, to repeatedly leaning back in their chair, kids will find ways to move around when confined to a table, desk, chair, small space, or when in sitting in groups on the floor.
So, what can parents do to help kids control and manage their fidgeting?
In addition to making sure kids get enough physical activity during the day, parents can also invest in small fidget toys and strips to help contain and manage fidgeting without causing a distraction to others.
Unfortunately, some people, including care providers, view fidgeting as a negative action. And while parents can’t change how everyone views fidgeting, parents can help their kids maintain more control over their bodies, especially when sitting for long periods.
Fidgeting: Common Causes
Common causes of fidgeting in kids include anxiety, stress, boredom, restlessness, autism, ADHD, or decreased physical activity. Since kids may fidget for one or more reasons, parents need to remain patient and open to the idea that fidgeting isn’t necessarily a bad behavior.
Parents should consult their kid’s physician to learn more about other signs associated with physical or neurological issues as fidgeting is just one of many indicators of restless leg syndrome, ADHD, and autism. Parents should also consider specific emotional situations that kids may have gone through to determine if maybe the fidgeting is a result of a recent event or trauma.
After ruling out physical or neurological causes for fidgeting, and after ruling out any situations that may have caused stress and anxiety, parents should talk with teachers and care providers to learn more about when fidgeting occurs and then find ways to help manage or control it.
In many cases, fidgeting can actually help kids concentrate and focus on what’s going on around them, so trying to stop kids from fidgeting may lead to more destructive behavioral problems. Finding ways to harness this energy allows kids to fidget without feeling bad about it.
The best way to approach fidgeting is with empathy. By learning more about why kids fidget can help parents find constructive ways to help their kids manage the behavior. Negatively approaching fidgeting will only make a kid feel worse.
Talking with kids and observing their behavior can really help put fidgeting into perspective and allow parents to find ways to help kids manage their movements. Maybe specific situations cause fidgeting, maybe certain times during the day kids fidget more, or maybe it’s a completely random activity that kids engage in throughout the day.
If parents need additional help, they should find a qualified therapist or counselor with experience in helping kids manage their fidgeting. A qualified therapist can offer solutions, suggestions, and other advice tailored to a kid’s specific needs.
The Benefits of Focused Fidgeting
Fidgeting helps keep the brain focused when engaging in sedentary activities like school assemblies, reading times, periods of learning, when completing homework, or when watching TV.
When nervous or anxious, kids may fidget to help themselves remain calm. This behavior, while appearing strange or annoying to others, is actually a perfectly normal reaction to nervousness and anxiety. Some kids move around for a few minutes until they feel calm, while others move around periodically to keep stress and anxiety from becoming overwhelming.
When moving around or stretching isn’t possible, fidgeting helps kids release pent-up energy during the day. Because many schools have reduced recess times and physical education programs, most kids don’t get enough physical activity. And even though many kids participate in after-school sports and other activities, they still need more time to run, jump and move their bodies.
Talking with kids about why they fidget in a non-judgmental way and then finding the right methods for kids to engage in focused fidgeting helps kids stay engaged when sitting for long periods.
Rather than trying to stop the behavior completely, parents should consider finding ways for kids to fidget without causing a distraction to others. Treating fidgeting as a ‘bad habit’ won’t solve the issue. Shaming kids into changing their behavior can lead to feelings of low self-esteem, which can cause increased aggression, depression, and the development of actual bad habits.
Focused fidgeting using a toy, strip, or video game allows kids to fidget without drawing attention to themselves. By attaching fidget strips to backpacks, books, and other items that kids carry around with them during the day, kids can quietly fidget without drawing attention to themselves.
Unlike shiny, noisy fidget toys and video games, strips provide a discreet way to move fingers around to help calm, soothe, and maintain focus.
How to Control/Manage Fidgeting
Depending on a kid’s age, parents can talk with their kids about fidgeting to learn more about why they do it and if they even realize they’re doing it. Many times, kids don’t even realize they’re moving around, tapping their pen or pencil on the desk, or leaning back in their chair – it’s just a subconscious movement.
Unfortunately, fidgeting has a bad reputation. Some people view fidgeting as a sign that some kids can’t focus and learn, which isn’t true, while others see fidgeting as an annoyance or sign that kids are bored and uninterested in what is going on around them, which may or may not be true.
Teaching kids how to fidget without causing attention to themselves allows kids to engage in the behavior while recognizing how it affects other people. Using items specifically made to help control fidgeting can really help, especially when kids are at school or in other public situations.
Understanding how kids fidget can help parents develop good strategies for fidgeting in public. For example, if a kid fidgets by tapping their feet, parents can suggest wiggling their toes instead. Finding ways to limit movement while still engaging in the activity of fidgeting can help.
Fidget toys can also help, especially for kids who fidget using their fingers. Small toys without flashing lights, or those that make loud noises, help kids remain engaged in what’s going on around them. Small toys also provide a more discreet way to fidget than a shiny spinning toy or video game.
Increasing a kid’s daily physical activity can help reduce fidgeting while helping to promote health and well-being. Kids need to move around constantly throughout the day as this helps kids grow strong and remain healthy.
Just letting kids run around the yard or the park helps kids burn all that energy they have. Kids that get enough physical activity get a better night’s sleep, remain focused and engaged through the day, and feel better emotionally.
About Fidget Strips
Available in various colors, Fidget Strips allow kids and adults to fidget without becoming a distraction to others. Simply attach the strip to backpacks, cell phones, laptops, desks, and other smooth surfaces for all-day use. To remove, peel back the corners – the adhesive will never leave any marks or damage to surfaces. Reattach strips to another smooth surface.
Choose from scratchy or satiny texture to suit a kid’s personality and fidgeting needs. These strips help kids manage feelings of stress and anxiety, help kids stay focused throughout the day, and allow kids to fidget without drawing attention to themselves.