Now that winter is in full swing, it may be apparent to parents and teachers alike that some children may be experiencing more difficulty with the “wiggles” and fidgeting during structured classroom/homework times. Instead of lamenting the fact that the child cannot sit still for more than five minutes, embrace their energy and try some of the sensory strategies below in the classroom and home environment to promote increased learning potential in every child.
Providing movement opportunities at the child’s seat is a great way to provide necessary sensory input many children crave, while also helping to increase their attention during stationary, table top tasks.
- Provide a foot fidget for a child to keep their feet busy while seated
- Provide a wiggle seat to place on the chair surface or on the floor
- Use a chair ball instead of a chair for table top tasks
- Allow time for “chair push-ups,” especially before seated writing tasks
Keep Those Hands Busy:
Fidgets can provide a safe outlet for kids to move their hands without disturbing others around them. By using a fidget tool, individuals can strengthen their intrinsic muscles of the hands and keep busy at the same time.
- Place a desk fidget on, or inside of the child’s desk or the edge of the seat
- Experiment with fidgets in a variety of forms: Putty, desk fidgets, or fidgets with moving pieces or tactile exploration
All children need frequent breaks from work to get up, stretch and move their bodies. Frequent gross motor breaks help to “wake-up” the body and reset the brain, increasing arousal levels, resulting in improved attention and a calm body
- Provide simplified yoga routines
- Sit on a therapy ball or read while standing on a balance board
- Try jumping jacks, or marching around the classroom (or at the desk)
- Try “animal walks,” such as bear walk, crab walk, or frog jumps
- Recess time with active play including running, jumping and climbing
Reducing Visual and Auditory Stimulus:
For those children who become overwhelmed with too much visual input, or noise in the classroom, try the following strategies to help them maintain attention and focus.
- Use low light, or natural light as much as possible versus fluorescent lighting
- Provide a quiet space in one corner of the classroom where children can complete work with fewer distractions
- Play quiet, rhythmic music
- Eliminate clutter on bulletin boards
- Place a curtain or sheet over open shelves containing games, art materials, toys that may be distracting
Chewing, biting, or sucking on hard, crunchy items can be very regulating and calming for kids with sensory challenges.
- Pack chewy food items such as a bagel, or dried fruit to provide great oral proprioceptive input
- Allow a water bottle with a thick straw to be kept at the desk for sipping water
- Use chewies in the classroom to help with self-regulation and focus
- Provide crunchy fruit and veggie snacks such as apples, carrots and celery
Provide “Heavy Work” Opportunities
Heavy work gives necessary input to the child’s body, helping him develop an improved body awareness and regulating his system. Allow the child to take responsibility in the classroom/home by completing specific jobs.
- Carry boxes of books to a designated place in the building
- Hand out papers to the class
- Push/pull heavy items in the classroom, i.e., chairs, boxes, class supplies
- Erase the chalkboard board/smartboard or table
- Empty wastebaskets or recycling
- Open doors and hold them for others