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The real reason children fidget

This article struck a chord with me about learning and the changing nature of our expectations on our kids. I have visited classrooms where students fidgeting with a pencil or other object were told off and the object removed, only for the child to become more "disruptive". The teacher hasn't considered the underlying reason for the fidgeting.

Balance and Barefoot

Children naturally start fidgeting in order to get the movement their body so desperately needs and is not getting enough of to “turn their brain on.” What happens when the children start fidgeting? We ask them to sit still and pay attention; therefore, their brain goes back to “sleep.”

Balance and Barefoot Article 


How can we meet these students’ needs? 

Can incorporating movement into our classrooms increase student engagement? 

There are lots of great resources shared in the comments under the article. One of which was GoNoodle brain breaks

  • What are your thoughts on this article? 
  • What stories can you share about how movement has helped your students engage?
  • What resources have you found helpful to encourage movement? 


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  • Leanne Stubbing (View all users posts) 23 Jun 2014 12:58pm ()

    There is definately a need for as much gross motor movement as possible in the early years to help with brain and body organisation.  Children are getting less opportunities to play in this way for as much as they need so yes it becomes very hard for them to sit still.

    I use GoNoodle breaks in my Year 3/4 class throughout the day.  I find that they not only help get some energy out but also get the brain connecting as it requires the children to have to coordinate their actions.  It works on balance too.  Plus we (yes I do it too) have lots of fun together.

  • Roxy Hickman (View all users posts) 27 Jun 2014 9:52am ()

    Hi Leanne,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on GoNoodle, it looks like fun and something that gives you another connection with your students. I'm curious if you notice a difference for your students engagement in learning on days that you use GoNoodle and days that you don't? 

  • Tim Gander (View all users posts) 31 Jul 2014 6:59am ()

    Hi Guys, great to hear people are talking about this - my son has ADHD and we have tried lots of different things to help him at school - one thing that has seemed to help him focus is allowing him to release some of that energy by chewing - we have bought quite a few (as he manages to destroy them after a while!) chewable necklaces that he can use, I think the link is here.. http://www.suelarkey.co.nz/Sensory_Shop.php It seems to be helping him sit through an hour long assembly - GoNoodle looks like something that would work as well - so thanks for sharing! 

  • sghailes (View all users posts) 03 Aug 2014 8:04pm ()

    Thanks Tim another link http://kidcompanions.com/need-cool-chew-necklace-one-must-bite-chew-fidget/#more-21273. I work with  children who have ASD. In their daily routine calming breaks are often built into their programme as a strategy allowing to going outside, into another environment or to an activity where they can release any anxiety due to sensory overload (a sensory programme). What we learn for our priority learners just makes sense for all learners, this is a vital aspect of UDL. As I go to Primary schools teachers do think about this for all children with Jump Jam, Kiwi Can programmes, Braingym,  movement to desks, back to the mat, chunking of learning, doodle pads etc... It seems in contrast that it is in Secondary Schools that this seems not as acceptable, is that about attitude or systems and structure? I'd be interested in examples of how secondary schools are being proactive in adapting to the need for students to move around and be stimulated to learn through activity, over and above the physical education programme?

  • Nathaniel Louwrens (View all users posts) 31 Jul 2014 10:42am ()

    Hi Roxy

    Thanks for sharing that article. While I personally wouldn't quickly jump to it being a result of ADHD, it has certainly put a new persepective on the whole fidgeting thing for me.

    One of my own kids is forever fidgeting, tapping his feet, drumming with his hands. He says that he likes to drum, which is likely true, however after reading this article I can see it's likely to be much more than that. During the summer he was outside a lot more, running around, climbing trees etc, but with the poorer weather he has been head down over his iPad a lot (until I realise he's been playing minecraft for the past 2 hours! Laughing). Looking back on it, he is fidgeting a lot more at the moment with the poor weather than he was during the summer. While we encourage all our kids outdoors as much as possible, it clearly isn't enough.

    The GoNoodle breaks look like a great idea for within the classroom and I can see modern learning environments and practices allowing students to move around a lot more rather than sitting in their rigid upright positions a lot of the day.

    I'm interested to see what others have done or are doing in their classrooms to help all our students move around more. Smile

  • MeganCroll1 (View all users posts) 31 Jul 2014 6:31pm ()

    I have recently brought a few swiss balls into my classroom.  The students love sitting on them.   I'm trying it as I see them a way to help with core balance, it enables the 'rollers' to rock back and forth and comfortable whether sitting on, or lying over the top (when reading).  I only have three in the class as I am trialling different sizes and need to see if they last the distance.  

  • Roxy Hickman (View all users posts) 31 Jul 2014 9:21pm ()

    It is great to hear different strategies that are being used successfully with students! 

    Megan, my chiropractor tells me I should use a swiss ball when I am working on the comupter, so you are on to a good thing there! I have recently seen these wobble chairs, (they would take up less space and won't roll away, but probably come at a higher cost)


    What other strategies are being used in classrooms? 

  • Rebbecca Sweeney (View all users posts) 01 Aug 2014 11:17am ()

    1. what's wrong with fidgeting? (don't use the "it distracts others" excuse)

    2. hour long assemblies - who is still torturing kids with these?! 

    I do agree that fidgeting can be an indicator that kids aren't getting enough movement/action in their days. However, I also think some people fidget when they are just plain bored, or when they have a great idea they want to work on but can't or just because that's what they do, or because they have a very high metabolism - nothing wrong with it and you can set up spaces to cater for it.  I'm a fidgeter and I'm proud of it!

  • linda Ojala (View all users posts) 01 Aug 2014 11:37am ()

    Hi All,

    I guess my own experience having a range of furniture and a classroom environment that is flexible enough so that all children can find a comfortable position is a real bonus.  Giving options about “where to sit” and “on what to sit” helps those students who need to move more or just like to find their own way of being comfortable.

    Working within an environment where there is far less “whole class” gathering times and more emphasis on student led learning, encourages less of the “teacher talk” and “mat times” which can be a real problem area for students who need to be up and moving.  I try to keep any whole class instruction time to a minimum. It can be interesting to video your self and see just how long we actually expect our students to sit and listen. I think finding different ways of engaging our students’ helpful – increasing creative and visual options to support learning.

  • Cathiesten (View all users posts) 01 Aug 2014 10:39pm ()

    yes definitely brain breakers and energisers and short instruction times.  I also vary where I instruct from, some times from the IWB and some times from in front of our working wall. Previously when we trialled a boys Yr 1 class we worked for 15 minutes, did gym around the room, then 15 minutes more, then an energiser and so on.  Paradoxically these very active boys LOVED having stories read to them and would stay quiet and focused for the time it took to read.  Have also interspersed academic work with sketching and drawing, another activity that this year's fidgety boys like. 

  • Annemarie Hyde (View all users posts) 03 Aug 2014 7:12pm ()

    Thanks for reminding us that children need to move.  We all know how hard it is to sit in a lecture that goes on and on with no interactivity - and we still do it to children.  I shall be sharing this with our teachers.

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