help children to sit still through movement

How to help children to sit still during circle time

There are two main reasons why a child may struggle to sit still


  • A learning body is frequently seeking the sensation of 'proprioception'. Proprioception refers to the feeling of pressure in the body's joints and muscles as the body walks, jumps, pushes, and pulls. Children learn about their body and spatial awareness through the feeling of proprioception.

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  • A learning body is frequently seeking the 'vestibular' sensation every day. Vestibular sensation refers to the feeling of head movement in the inner ear. We need this sensation to learn what feels 'upside down' and 'upright'. We use vestibular sensation to maintain our balance, and to understand where our head is in space in comparison to other parts of our body and the environment.

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You will see children who are trying to understand their body rock, spin, and jump during circle time and lunch time. Children who are spending hours and hours on technology may be more inclined to rock, spin, and jump around as their learning bodies need all of this movement to learn, develop, and balance.


After spending many years in busy classroom and early learning centres, I have observed hundreds of children finding it difficult to sit still and focus during circle time. As a result I have use the following strategies to help children focus and give educators the opportunity to continue with their lessons in a calm classroom.


Strategies to improve sitting endurance during circle time include:

* Add Velcro strips to the edge or underneath the table to focus the student during table top activities.

* Encourage children who seek proprioception to do heavy push and pull activities before coming to sit down on the mat.

* Schedule 2 minute sensory breaks every 20 minutes for children aged 3 to 5 years and every 30 minutes for children aged 5 to 8 years to refuel the brain, joints, and muscles with oxygen and sensory integration.

* Place a tin can underneath the table for the student to rock their feet back and forth on the tin can.

* Encourage children to sit in cross-legged position and push their hands down on to their knees 5 times, then relax.

* Provide children with something quiet to fidget with like masking tape, blu-tac, or a small velcro strip. Children can still concentrate on what you are saying while fidgeting just like we can still pay attention in a meeting while fidgeting with our pen or coffee cup.


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