I’ve been getting lots of questions from moms of young boys who have a hard time getting their sons to sit still. Some of these moms don’t feel like they are able to teach their sons anything. They are unsure of how to get their sons to slow down long enough to sit through a book, complete a worksheet, or finish their math problems.
When your son is extremely active, how do you slow him down long enough to get him to learn? There are a couple of ways to look at this issue.
First, it is natural for boys to want to be on the move.
Especially when they are young, sitting still isn’t a skill that many boys can master. It is only after spending time working with them that boys will slowly increase their attention span and gain the ability to sit still for any length of time. As moms, we know that kids need to be taught how to tie their shoes or complete math problems; but, for some reason, we think they should have been born with the ability to sit still. This is certainly not the case.
The other way to look at this issue is that children don’t always need to be sitting still to be learning.
In fact, most children learn better when they are moving and doing than when they are sitting and listening. The famous adage, “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand” is certainly true. Most people will learn much more from moving and doing and completing projects than they ever will from sitting and listening or watching while someone else does something.
Does that mean that if your child can’t sit still you don’t have to address the issue? Not at all. Sitting still is certainly an important skill to develop. But develop is the operative word. And you need to help your child learn this skill. It may take time – especially for some children for which being still doesn’t even come close to coming naturally.
Below are some tips for teaching your active son while helping him acquire the skill of sitting still:
1 – Be Patient
The most important thing to remember is to be patient with your child. Nothing makes a boy more antsy than having his parent angry or frustrated with him. Remember that learning to sit still for any length of time will take time. Take a deep breath when you feel yourself getting frustrated.
Over time, you will see results with your child. And the more patient you are as you work with your child, the faster all of his skills will develop.
2 – Work with him slowly
All skills take time to develop. Sitting still is no exception. Use a timer as a stopwatch to see how long your child can sit still (or glance at the clock if a visible timer makes your child anxious.) Then gradually add a minute at a time until your child is able to sit and listen for longer periods of time. Be sure to reward your child as they make progress.
While listening, it helps some children tremendously to be able to do something with their hands. Let them build with blocks while they listen, quietly play with letter tiles, rock back and forth on the floor, play cat’s cradle… or any other mindless activity. You might think that your children aren’t paying attention to you if they are doing something else while you read or instruct them; however, often this is not the case.
Some kinesthetic learners actually need to be doing something in order to learn or listen properly. Quiz your child and if he is able to answer your questions then his actions are helping and not hindering his learning.
This is the reasoning behind fidget spinners, and why they’ve become so wildly popular!
4 – Adapt your curriculum to your child’s needs
If you have a curriculum which is filled with lots of worksheets and your child hates to sit and fill out worksheets, try to adapt the lessons to your child’s individual needs. Rather than sounding out letters from a worksheet, make a large letter on the floor with masking tape and let him run on top of it. Or make a huge object out of cardboard and let your child try to knock it down with a beanbag while they say whatever fact they are supposed to be learning. Or have him jump around the outside of the house or run laps while practicing his spelling words.
Don’t be a slave to your curriculum. Our job is to adapt the curriculum to the needs of our child. This takes some work but it is worth it to see the joy of learning light up our child’s face.
5 – Purchase a different curriculum
Rather than having to do the work of adapting your current curriculum, you may want to combine a couple or throw out what you have and purchase something new. There are so many options out there nowadays that none of us are stuck with one way of teaching our children.
Go to homeschool conventions and book fairs until you find something that will work for your child. And remember, just because something worked for one of your children does not mean it will work for the next. Be ready to change for the good of your child!
6 – Tips for Reading Books
If it seems painful for your child to listen to you read aloud, try reading picture books with beautiful or interesting illustrations. Read books using lots of expression in your voice. Let your child act out the action of the book as you read. Choose books which have lots of dramatic or funny events and will interest your child.
Again, it is important that you start slowly and work your way up. Rather than thinking your child should be able to start out by sitting through a stack of books, start by reading just one book at a time or even just a few pages if necessary. Let your child take a break and then start back in.
Over time, his attention span will increase and you will be amazed by how long he will want to sit and listen to you read.
7 – Make it Fun
There is no way we can ever teach everything to our children. But we can give them a desire to want to continue learning. If we make learning fun, our children will develop that desire. Talk with eagerness in your voice. Challenge your children with excitement. Give lots of praise. Help them to see and be proud of their accomplishments.
It’s important for us to remember that sitting still is not a skill with which many boys are born. Be prepared to work with your child. Over time and with lots of patience, you will start to see his attention span increase and his need for wiggling decrease. Eventually, your son will learn to sit still. In the meantime, meet your child where he is at and enjoy the journey!
Question: Do you have an active son? Have you found other clever ways to teach him? Please leave a comment below.