Have you ever heard the phrase “ants in your pants”? It sounds like a silly exaggeration… until you have a child of your own who literally cannot sit still! At any given moment they must be chatting, running, exploring, tasting, pestering, and getting into trouble. If your child is truly gifted, they might be able to do all of the above at the same time!
A child’s boundless energy is a wonderful thing, but it might also have you running yourself ragged. Worst of all, a high-energy child tends to find trouble if they’re not able to find a healthy outlet for that energy. It might lead to contention with friends and family members, trouble in school, and tantrums. So, in order to guide your child’s energy into productive outlets, here are some time-tested strategies.
1: Get Outside
In studies of natural therapies for ADHD, it was found that an hour of outside play can be as effective as medication in helping children to focus. It’s not just the playing part of this formula that’s beneficial, but also the outside part. Although specialists recommend 45 minutes or more of outside play every day for children, fewer and fewer are getting it. Instead, we’re down to an average of 10 minutes or less spent outside by children each day. Some of this is because of the draw of electronics. Some is due to the worries we have as parents about our children being outside, especially if they’re unsupervised.
So, if your child has a lot of energy, look for ways to prioritize outside play. This could be by making some adjustments to your yard to make it play-friendly. Or it could be a matter of taking a trip to the park more often, or even setting up restrictions on television and video games.
2: Organized Sports
It’s the classic go-to for stressed out parents everywhere: organized sports. Children have so many opportunities to join teams and learn how to play basketball, baseball, soccer, and many other things. Even if your child isn’t great with teamwork, there are lots of outdoor sports that you can get involved in: climbing, cross-country running, or perhaps tennis. Look into the offerings at your school, and those at your local Parks & Recreation Department. Most cities have leagues for young players. Once your child finds a sport he or she is interested in, a lot of energy is going to be focused into training and practice.
3: Be Ready with Distractions
It might seem like taking the easy way out to just pull up a game on your smartphone and hand it over when your child gets antsy in public, but sometimes you really just need your child to be safely and quietly occupied so that you can take care of other business for a moment. If your child tends to get squirmy, you’ve probably already gotten used to having an arsenal in your purse of things to distract them. Here are some tips to get the most out of your limited space:
- Tactile toys that can be manipulated will probably get the most mileage.
- Things that are new will get attention faster.
- Fuzzy plush toys, or anything with an interesting texture work great.
- It’s not a bad thing to occupy a child with a snack, which satisfies their need for sensory in several ways. Keep Cheerios or carrot sticks handy–just steer clear of junk food.
- Want to make something yourself? This link has some excellent ideas.
4: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
If there’s an underlying chemical reason for your child’s endless energy, or it’s accelerated to the point that it’s causing a major problem for your child and family, it might be time to talk to a counselor. Now, that doesn’t mean that your child will be automatically medicated, and it doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with your child. However, a diagnosis gives you access to extra help and tools, especially once you enter the school system. Best of all, it gives you access to the knowledge and experience of others.
Even if it’s just one session with a counselor, your child’s counselor can help give you the tools and actions necessary to help your child get onto a better path. Oftentimes, the worst behavior comes when parents are unaware of an actual issue like, say, trauma or anxiety.
Hopefully these strategies will help you and your child find creative outlets for all that energy.