When you have a child with a lot of energy it can be hard to know what to do with them. They always seem to be moving and going, bouncing off the walls. The ability to control that energy for useful tasks or even structured play is important for active children to learn at a young age.
Active children need much more scheduled activity than do other children. Often you will see an active child with too much free time getting out of hand or noticeably stressed. Because of their energy and constant activity at times they need to be reeled in and there needs to be definite boundaries in place for these children.
As parents or caregivers we need to pay close attention to the specific dispositions of each child. All children need some structure in their lives because it gives them security; active children need structure all the more because they have difficulty keeping themselves from spiraling out of control.
There need to be carefully adhered to bed times and nap times, regular times for meals, and scheduled play with other children and close supervision. Another very important activity to schedule is quiet time for reading or playing alone or one on one with a parent or other adult. They need to experience being able to do things quietly and calmly and get practice in doing this daily. It will serve them well as they become adults and it will help them realize that not everything they do that gives them pleasure requires strenuous activity.
On observing adult behavior in office situations or structured work environments you can often spot out an adult that has difficulty keeping focused on the task at hand. This is more than likely due to the fact that they were not trained as a child to be able to have quiet downtime that did not involve sleeping. We are doing a disservice to our children if we do not give them the tools to function in any environment.
When an active child is channeled properly and their energy used for specific scheduled and goal oriented events they can achieve great things. But when this energy is allowed to flow willy-nilly throughout their lives, driving them here and there with no purpose they become self involved and have great difficulty staying on task.
My own son was an active child and is not an active young adult. We were very careful to keep him in predominantly structured activities. And I do not mean structured as putting him in classes or other events outside the home. But at home he had very definite times for naps, eating, and quiet activities. Everyday as a family we would have a bike ride to the park or take a walk to the bayou to check out the tadpoles. He spent time outside with free play but we always made sure he had something constructive to do. He loved to build things and to use a hammer and nails and someone was always there with him supervising when he was young. We encouraged him to play ball with the neighbor children or to climb safe trees with his siblings.
We also scheduled study time. It helped our son to sit down with his sister and do their homework together. She could do her homework anywhere and if it was a project we of course allowed her to do it on her own. But most nights she would sit with him and encourage him in his studies. I would be on hand in the kitchen to assist and was always involved as well. He had difficulty sitting for long periods of time when he was very young so we made sure that study time did not go on too long and perhaps if there was too much work we would take a break.
Craft time was something he loved and he could stay focused for thirty or more minutes when given a craft he liked. He especially liked working with craft sticks and hot glue guns but was very carefully supervised of course. He also enjoyed making houses out of sugar cubes using cake icing as the glue. We would often color the icing with food coloring to make it even more interesting for him. We had an Easy Bake oven and a Queasy Bake oven and both our children loved to spend time baking up treats or creating yucky bugs and creatures.
We found that having a nightly schedule of taking a nice warm bath and then spending fifteen or twenty minutes reading or telling stories before bed was a wonderful way to get our active child relaxed and ready for bed. He could easily spend an hour in the bath tub if we allowed it. He had a pirate ship and other bath toys that kept him interested and soaking until we told him he was turning into a prune and had to get out. This seemed to relax him so much and then bundling him up and getting him into his pajamas for story time kept that relaxation going. Good sleep habits really help active children a great deal.
We also made a point of keeping him occupied during his free time on more than just video games and television. He could sit for hours at the computer if we allowed it. A little computer is fine and a television show here or there also but we thought it important to not let those things become the predominate forms of entertainment in his life. We played games together as a family, did chores together as a family, and spent time talking about our days especially at dinner time. Staying well connected with what your active child is thinking and feeling as well as making them feel connected to your thoughts and feelings can really help to build strong relationships. Because of their level of activity relational attachments are sometimes hard for them and they need these types of bonds to keep them focused on others.
Keeping your active child on a schedule and keeping them well balanced physically, emotionally, and mentally will give them the tools they need as they grow into adulthood. We need to help them to channel their energy and in so doing show them how they can be very successful using this gift of energy that God has blessed them with.
Ken Myers is a father of three and passionate about great childcare. He’s always looking for ways to help families find the support they need to live fuller, richer lives. Find out more about expert childcare by checking out @go_nannies on Twitter.