If they need to focus, let them fidget

Creative play is good for learning and focus

Lately your kids have probably been looking out the window to see sunshine, blue skies, and a world of possibilities on the other side of the glass.  Even if you school year 'round or your children are normally able to focus on their work, maybe the lure of summer is proving to be too distracting. But as a parent/teacher, you want them to direct their attention to learning. How do you fight against the fidgets? DON'T.

Kids often fidget simply because they are wired that way. It's their youthful metabolism, and part of their developmental process. Movement in children doesn't always mean they are disengaged from learning- it could be an indication that they are engaged. They also exhibit strong emotion in physical ways because they have yet to develop other methods of expressing themselves.

While learning self-control is important, imposing adult behavior on children is not only a bad idea, but it can have an adverse affect on their ability to focus. Rethink your expectations if your kids have ants in their pants.

There are physical factors to take into account. Sometimes the fidgets are a result of hearing issues or a need for glasses. Kids can't always communicate that they are having trouble in these areas. They might not even know that what they are seeing and hearing isn't normal. Make an appointment for a hearing and vision screening just to be sure.

Are they getting enough exercise and enough rest? Do they eat regular meals and healthy snacks to keep their blood sugar levels steady? Look at your schedule and meal plans and see if you are providing them the balance they need to be able to feel good and think clearly.

Take a look at the research into how gender differences affect learning. I recommend starting with books by Michael Gurian and Leonard Sax. They explore everything from endocrine disruptors in food and plastic bottles to the difference in brain structure and chemistry. You may need to make adjustments to your child's diet, or their learning environment, as well as how to accommodate different learning methods.

Along those lines- girls usually favor soft lighting and music, or white noise, a calm atmosphere, and low voices. They enjoy detail-oriented work and can sit much longer in a chair or at a table engaged in writing, reading, and drawing. They are more expressive by nature, and are interested in discussing feelings and points of view. If they are distracted, it may be because they are overstimulated and uncomfortable. Ask them what kind of school space would work best for them.

Boys need louder voices and sounds to maintain their attention, and they often crave purpose, wanting to know 'why' they are learning a particular concept. "When am I ever going to use this?" is a real question that boys want to know. It also helps if they have the ability to shift position and move around. A standing desk, a swivel chair, or occasional breaks may be just the thing to get them through their school day with more schoolwork accomplished than you might think. You may even consider delaying 'formal' desk work for your boys until they are 8, or even 10. This doesn't mean they don't learn reading and math skills, by the way, but that the methods used may need to be more organic and less textbook/workbook.

These are only a few suggestions, but the point is - we may be thinking our child is hyperactive or being stubborn about schoolwork, not understanding that there are things we can do as parents to eliminate some real stumblingblocks to learning. Don't be so quick to order them to "Sit still and FOCUS!" Take the time to examine why they might have a case of the wigglies. A fidget break may be just what they need.

Those bodies and brains are growing at an astonishing rate- and we can help them navigate the physical, social, emotional, and academic challenges ahead. 

Do you use fidget breaks in your homeschool? Share what works for your kids in the comments below -