Help Me Grow | United Way of Utah County

Toddlers: As still as a flamingo?

When you picture a flamingo in your head, what do you picture it doing? Is it flying? Running? Jumping? No, right? Usually, when we picture a flamingo, we tend to picture it standing still on one leg. Interestingly enough, flamingoes can stand still on one leg for up to four hours! Scientists have come up with several theories behind why flamingoes do this, ultimately, it’s just because they find it comfortable and easy.

Unlike a flamingo, staying still for hours, on one foot or not, is just not in human nature. It’s not comfortable or easy for us at all. Staying still in one place is especially hard for young children. I’ve had many parents concerned that their toddler doesn’t sit still for church, for a movie, or even for storytime. As I’ve told parents before, toddlers are naturally active and can’t sit still for long periods of time, so don’t expect them to sit through a Marvel movie.

Now, the real question comes in. How long can children stay still? On average, 3-year-olds can manage to sit still for 5-10 minutes, 5-year-olds for 15 minutes, 7-year-olds for 25 minutes, and 10-year-olds can go up to 40 minutes. The older the child gets; the more time can be spent sitting still. You can read more about this here: When Do Kids Start Sitting Still?

Tips to Keep in Mind

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when planning activities that require your child to sit still;

  1. Help find outlets for your toddlers’ energy.
  2.   Playing at the park is a great way for children to release energy. Before having your toddler sit down to do a quiet activity, let them be active and play on the playground. It’s important to find a balance.
  3. Give them something to do instead of having them just wait for you.
  4.   Involve your toddler in the activities you’re doing. If you’re washing the dishes, give them some containers and lids to play with. This will keep them entertained and busy while you do what you need to do.
  5. Introduce quiet activities selectively and at their own level.
  6.   If your toddler is having difficulty sitting still on your lap while reading to them, let them sit on the floor or roam around the room. Make sure to read with enthusiasm and make funny voices, it is a big attention grabber and it keeps your child from becoming bored. There are more tips on how to read to your active toddler later in this post.
  7. Limit the amount of time you ask them to sit still.
  8.   If your toddler can only sit still for 5 minutes then don’t extend that time, make sure to praise them for the amount of time they do stay still.

Read more about these tips here: What to do if your toddler just won’t sit still

Reading to Your Toddler

Most recently I had a mom reach out to me asking for tips on how to read to her toddler who doesn’t like to sit still for story time. After some research, I found these amazing tips;

  1. Read after physical activity
  2. Consider the timing of your read-alouds
  3. Keep your children engaged with interactive books
  4. Read during lunch or snack time
  5. Listen to audio books in the car
  6. Read to your child while they are in the bathtub
  7. Try reading books that appeal to your child’s unique interests
  8. Let your child sit on a Move-N-Sit cushion
  9. Eliminate avoidable distractions
  10. Set a timer for read-alouds

Read more about these tips here: Reading Aloud to Kids Who Can’t Sit Still

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

There are many reasons as to why children might not want to sit still and every child’s activity level is different. Some kids get really excited about activities and in turn, will get more active. Other kids might get distracted by a TV that is playing in the other room and will become uninterested in the activity. Whatever the reason, a concern that might emerge in these cases is, “Does my child have ADHD?”.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is commonly linked to being overly active and easily distracted. As mentioned before, toddlers are just naturally active, so you can imagine how hard it can be to properly diagnose them with ADHD. According to BabyCenter, “Experts usually reassure parents not to worry about hyperactivity at this age, and have rarely diagnosed children under the age of 5 with ADHD”. Ultimately, you know your child best, if concerns arise about their activity level, don’t hesitate to contact their pediatrician.

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