Helpful Tips And Techniques For A Child That Can’t Sit Still

Playing with an umbrellaAfter parent-teacher meetings I usually get a flurry of phone calls from concerned parents. They’ve been told that their child just can’t sit still.

“My son’s teacher says he wriggles and twists constantly, and also swivels his chair around.  They say it is disrupting the class.”

“My daughter’s teacher says she gets up in the middle of the lesson and walks around the classroom, stopping by other kids’ desks and picking up their books, pencils or other possessions. Sometimes she even leaves the classroom, and walks out into the hallway without permission.”

Has your child’s teacher told you that your child can’t sit still?

Maybe you’ve observed some of your child’s can’t-sit-still-itis at home, too. Perhaps they tip their (non-rocking) chair back in a rocking motion, balancing it precariously on the back legs. Maybe they tap their feet or repeatedly bang the table when it’s time to do homework. Or they shift, squirm and jiggle at the dinner table.

Although we expect children (and adults) to get at least somewhat fidgety if forced to sit for too long—think of a trans-ocean airplane trip—for some kids, it’s hard to sit still for even a few minutes.

Trying to force a child to sit still usually backfires but fortunately there are a number of interventions that can successfully minimize the wiggles, limit classroom (and at-home) disruptions, and help squirmy children focus.

Products Which Help Your Child Sit Still (When He Needs To)

Dr. Lucy Jane Miller, founder of the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation, suggests trying aroma bands, which children can wear on their wrists. The bands contain calming and/or focusing essential oils (such as lavender, lemon, peppermint, etc.—test to see which works best for your child.)

One I like a lot is this stylish and inexpensive Girls Personal Oil Diffuser Bracelet Aromatherapy Charm Bracelet. It’s got “small clay hearts painted with pearl acrylic paint adorn each bracelet. You just add a drop of oil to the back side and you can enjoy the fragrance all day.”

Another idea from Dr. Miller is specialized fidget bands. Try Bouncy Bands or look for similar or related products at any of these suppliers:

Abilitations (


Pocket Full of Therapy (

Therapy Shoppe (

Free And Easy Ideas

Oral input can also help a child calm down and focus. Some schools are becoming more flexible and are allowing children to sip drinks through a straw or even chew gum during class. Sipping, sucking, and swallowing can calm kids; chewing can help them focus. 

At home, you can try Calm Press with your child or teach it to them so they can do it themselves.

Also, proper core breathing is essential. It helps your child focus, stay calm, and not fidget too much.

In The Parent-Child Dance: A Guide to Help You Understand and Shape Your Child’s Behavior, I recommend a group of activities for breathing called Blow the House Down. These activities “result in calmness, yet are exciting enough to hold a kid’s interest. They’ll help your child develop better breathing techniques and strengthen the breathing muscles.”

The first activity, the Citra Citrus Sipper™, combines both oral input and breathing, plus it even has the benefit of providing aromatherapy. The scent of orange oil (in the peel) is a favorite of children—it’s lively scent is said to help relieve stress as well as make children (and adults) feel more positive and happy overall.

The Citra Citrus Sipper™ is a special straw. Poke the sharper end into an orange and hand it to your child. He’ll probably know what to do! Your child will suck up the delicious juice, swallow, and breathe. This cycle helps kids become calm and centered and is good before they sit in a classroom, during lunchtime, and right before homework. This also develops oral muscle strength.

—Excerpted from The Parent-Child Dance: A Guide to Help You Understand and Shape Your Child’s Behavior (OT Thrive Pub., 2014).







One thought on “Helpful Tips And Techniques For A Child That Can’t Sit Still

  1. My daughter can’t sit still. She’s always on the go: at home and in class. Her teachers always talk about it. She’s not stupid, not the smartest but is very annoying especially to teachers.
    At home we just let her do her thing.
    Some of the ideas you discuss sound interesting. But we are older than most parents in the class and don’t have the patience that most younger parents may have.

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