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How to Conquer Homework Time with Your Fidgety Kid

Is your child a frequent fidgeter during schoolwork? Instead of discouraging movement, here are some ideas to encourage their sensory differences during schoolwork:

constant motion/doesn't sit still

Sensory Explanation: "Under-registration of vestibular input is present. The brain requires an adequate amount of vestibular input to regulate and maintain a ready state to function on a daily basis. If a child is not registering or detecting the input, he/she will likely seek it out on a constant basis. The brain needs vestibular nutrition to function, and if the message is getting lost of the way, the child will crave it and be constantly hungry for it.

Ideas to help:

  • Provide an indoor swing or hammock.

  • Encourage the use of a hippity hop ball or BOSU ball.

  • Encourage the use of a large therapy ball for indoor use.

  • Encourage wheelbarrow walking.

  • Encourage jumping from BOSU ball to pillow cave.

  • Provide opportunities for swimming and playing on swings, slides, and scooter boards.

Loves to make mouth noises, such as humming, clicking

Sensory Explanation: This is a common sensory anchor and can assist in self-regulation for a child. The auditory input can be soothing and calming, as well as the proprioception and tactile input it provides to the jaw, mouth, and throat.

Ideas to help:

  • Allow for the child to do this during times when it is not disrupting to others.

  • Take note if this occurs at certain times... Is it a new and stressful situation? Or when the child is bored and required to sit? In the car?

  • Provide a vibrating toothbrush or other vibrating oral sensory tool.

  • Provide an MP3 player with their favorite songs and calming music.

  • If the child is doing this to tune out auditory distractions, encourage the use of earplugs or noise cancelling headphones and decrease the auditory distractions when possible.

Rocks body, shakes leg, or moves head while sitting

Sensory Explanation: All three layers of these movements are stimulating the vestibular system, which in turn promotes attention to task, alertness, and overall self-regulation. Often these are noticed when a child is required to sit still for a period of time or in times of stress, sensory overload, or sensory dysregulation.

Ideas to help:

  • Use a ball or T-stool instead of a regular seat.

  • Use Thera-Band around legs of a regular chair to provide resistance movements for the lower body.

  • Produce frequent movement breaks including heavy/hard work.

  • Encourage the use of a hippity hop ball or BOSU ball.

  • Provide indoor swing or hammock.

  • Provide a fidget toy/object or oral sensory tool such as chewing gum.

  • I noted during sensory overload or multi-sensory settings, decrease the amount of sensory input overall.

always tapping hands or feet

Sensory Explanation: Tapping of the hands or feet or both provides proprioceptive input to the arms and/or legs, and when it involves tapping of the feet, the vestibular system is activated as well. These may serve as a sensory anchor for the child and can be calming and regulating for the nervous system. A child will also tend to do this as a way to self-regulate and maintain ready state to focus and attend a task.

Ideas to help:

  • For homework or at school, allow for the use of a ball chair.

  • Wrap Thera-Band around the the legs of the chair.

  • Try a fidget toy.

  • Offer a vibrating toy or pillow.

  • Try an oral sensory tool to help regulate and attend.

  • Have the child engage in 15 minutes of proprioceptive and vestibular play prior to tasks in which sitting is required.

  • All the child to stand to do schoolwork, or stand on a balance board or BOSU ball.

always rocking or tilting chair

Sensory Explanation: Doing this activates the vestibular system, which is often needed to attend to task, maintain a ready state for learning, or for basic self-regulation. Children who under-register vestibular input tend to need to move to learn and will wiggle in any way they can while seated. Rocking or tilting the chair is just one more way to seek movement.

Ideas to help:

  • Switch out the regular chair for a ball chair or hippity hop ball at school and at home at a desk.

  • Try Thera-Band wrapped around the legs of the chair.

  • Encourage sitting on a vibrating pillow or place under the feet.

  • An oral sensory toy may be helpful.

  • Explore fidget toy options.

  • Encourage regular doses of vestibular input during the day, especially prior to sit down tasks.

  • Encourage at least 15 minutes of movement and proprioception prior to being seated.

  • Instead of sitting for schoolwork or homework, let the child stand or lay on the floor on their tummy.

  • Try doing schoolwork on a vertical surface such as an easel, chalkboard, or dry erase board; this could also be down ti ha BOSU ball or balance board.

Constant pen clicking

Sensory Explanation: Clicking of a pen provides tactile and proprioceptive feedback to the hand and fingers, as well as auditory input. Often the pen clicking will be done in a pattern or rhythmical fashion. All of these types of input combined can be very soothing and regulating for the nervous system. This may also serve as a sensory anchor for the child. Believe it or not, simply clicking the pen can help the brain in regard to learning and attention.

Ideas to help:

  • Respect this a sensory signal and allow for the pen clicking when it is not disturbing others.

  • When it's necessary to replace this with something non-distracting, a fidget toy would be a great alternative.

  • Encourage the use of a ball chair for homework or at school instead of a regular chair.

  • Have the child try lying on their tummy to do schoolwork or standing and working on a vertical surface such as an easel.

  • Try having the child use an MP3 player and ear buds listening to instrumental music while doing school work.

  • Encourage regular movement breaks during school work.

Twists, extends, or holds hands together tightly when challenged or stressed

Sensory Explanation: Doing this activity provides proprioceptive input to the arms and hands. this can be regulating and serve as a sensory anchor. It can also be just the right type of sensory input to prevent sensory overload or flight or fight for the child.

Ideas to help:

  • Let 'em do it. Respect this as a sensory signal, and if it fossils for and helps the child regulate, why not?

  • A fidget toy may be helpful.

  • Encourage deep breathing during stressful or challenging scenarios.

  • Provide regular and frequent doses of deep pressure touch, especially to the arms and hands.

  • Provide joint compression to the arms such as wheelbarrow walking.

  • Play catch with a weighted medicine ball.

  • Encourage hanging from a bar to provide joint traction.

  • Provide compression clothing for the upper body.

  • Provide Thera-Band activities for the arms.

  • Theraputty, clay, or Play-doh may be useful."

Have the child engage in proprioceptive and vestibular play with this trampoline prior to tasks in which sitting is required!

Vibrating Cushion


Our recommended fidget toys!

Oral sensory tool to help regulate and attend!


Source for Understanding Your Child's Sensory Signals:

Voss, A. (2015). Understanding your child's sensory signals (3rd ed.).

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