Ever wondered why kids can’t sit still? Kids in classrooms fidget more than they used to. Ask any teacher. Most teachers will even recommend that the child is sent for ADHD testing. He or she may well have ADHD but actually, many of them do not!
What is going on? Look at these facts:
- Some teachers say that 1 in 8 kids have attention problems
- Kids are expected to sit for longer and longer periods
- Recess times are being continually cut because of educational demands
- Kids have to sit upright
Look at what happened in the past. First, nearly all kids played outdoors and they were not stuck inside attached to their devices which did not exist at the time. They used to climb trees and roll down hills. Now they do none of these things because:
- Parents fear liability issues
- Parents worry about safety too much. 50% of 7-12-year-olds in the UK, when interviewed, said they had been banned from climbing trees.
- Parents prefer to be taxi drivers for their kids but almost half (47%) said they would like to see them do fewer extracurricular activities
This is why Play England exists. Here kids are encouraged to play in nature and there are lots of resources and activities. There is also advice on managing risk and why we need to re-wild our kids with more wild time.
Why fresh air is good for kids
“We mustn’t wrap our children in cotton wool, but allow them to play outside so as to better understand the opportunities and challenges in the world around them, and how to be safe.” – Ed Balls, Member of Parliament, UK.
In the USA, there are lots of similar projects to encourage kids to play outside. One of these is Timber Nook. They encourage children to get moving, integrate their senses, teaching them how to play independently and think creatively.
What has all this got to do with the classroom?
A lot! Because kids need to move a lot in order to pay attention in the classroom. At the moment children are walking around with an underdeveloped balance system because they are just not moving enough. They also need to move and exercise their bodies in all sorts of directions with many different activities.
Researchers have found that only 1 in 12 kids have normal strength and balance (compared to kids in the 1980s). They need to have a strong sensory system working properly if we expect them to pay attention and stay focused in the classroom.
Why kids can’t sit still
This is what happens. It is only natural that a child will start to fidget because his or her body is craving for some sort of movement. Fidgeting will do the trick and it helps them to turn their brain on. When a teacher or parent tells them to stop, their brain goes back to sleep!
Now, more enlightened teachers are allowing stability balls to be used. The secondary movement for trying to balance on the ball aids concentration and allows them to pay attention. We now know that the brain affects the body just as much as the body affects the brain. They are so closely interconnected that they cannot exist in isolation. Yet our educational systems seem to be oblivious of this fact.
Look what happens in Scandinavia
I know one US family who moved to Norway. Their kid had ADHD and they were delighted when he started to study and focus. They soon realized why! He was getting a lot more recesses out in the open air. In other words, the physical activity was a real boost to his brain. He was getting 3 recesses. In Finland, studies show that the rate of ADHD is one of the lowest in the world. Here they are even more strict about play time as the kids have a 15-minute break every hour. They must play in the fresh air, no matter what the weather is like!
Moral of the story?
This is a no-brainer. If we ensure that our children get more playtime in the open air it will help them to keep still and stop fidgeting. They basically need more recesses but try telling that to the education authorities. You might have to move to Norway or Finland!