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Be Still

Tips for keeping squirmy kids in their seats

Squirmy, wiggly kids can really try a mom’s patience. Sit still. Pay attention. Be polite. Uh-huh. Good luck with that.

“Scolding a child probably won’t get him to sit quietly,” says Carol Kranowitz, author of The Out-of-Sync Child. “It’s frustrating because they’re not doing what they’re supposed to do, but wiggly kids are just trying to get their bodies organized; they’re seeking sensory input. So let’s get them some input.” With that in mind, here are Kranowitz’s tips for getting the wiggles out.

“Immediately before they’re expected to sit still (for a meal, for circle time, for a pre-school interview), give them a heaping dose of proprioceptive stimulation. In other words, give them things to push, pull, lift or carry. The heavier the work, the better. Let them jump, stretch, stomp their feet. These sorts of activities tend to organize squirmy kids, and the effects can last from 20 minutes to an hour or more.

Make sure their feet can touch the ground. At mealtime, place a box, stool, or phone book under their feet to stop the dangling.

Weight them down. Get a weighted lap animal or just fill tube socks with kidney beans, and knot or sew the end. Put them on their laps, around their necks, or on their ankles at mealtime or story time.

Beware of tippy chairs. This can be very unsettling for a sensory-seeking child. One solution is to get an old tennis ball, cut an X into the ball, and jam the uneven chair leg into it.

Remember that stretching on resistive things is always calming and organizing. The Stretch-eze and Body Sox are two products that give children a chance to have fun pushing, rolling, and jumping with resistance. For on-the-go emergencies, keep a stretchy exercise band (like a Thera-Band) in the diaper bag or backpack.

When nothing else is at hand, try a good, deep squeeze. Press on their shoulders, squeeze their limbs, give a strong bear hug. If the child says No, then stop. But most wigglers will love it.”

—Carol Kranowitz is the author of many books on sensory-seeking kids, including her most recent, Growing an In-Sync Child: Simple, Fun Activities to Help Every Child Develop, Learn and Grow. Her books are available at sensoryworld.com