Get Kids Moving for Increased Attention Spans

“Sit still and pay attention.” This may be a common phrase uttered in many classrooms toward children who are often labeled as fidgety.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) there has been an increase in the number of children diagnosed with Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Iowa is categorized as having one of the highest rates in the country along with other states such as Illinois and Tennessee. So what do we do to help children foThinkstockPhotos-178388129cus and learn better in the classroom? Movement!

Those fidgety kids are seeking more movement or sensory input in their day. They need to be allowed to engage in physical activity regularly throughout the day on a daily basis. Recess, sports, and playing outside are all ways in which kids can get more movement in their routine. Teachers can add movement breaks into their classroom routine to provide all students with sensory input. Recent research indicates kids are less coordinated and have poor core control, limiting their overall strength and balance. Increasing their movement throughout the day may help to combat these deficits.

Limit Screen Time

With increased access to technology both at home and in the classroom, kids are less likely to engage in physical forms of play such as biking, running, sports, swinging, climbing and jumping. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limited or no screen time (TV, tablet, computer, phone, etc.) for infants under the age of 2, and two hours or less screen time for school-aged children. Adults also benefit from limited screen time, as it improves sleep quality.

Ultimately, we need to increase opportunities for movement in the classroom and at home in order to improve each child’s ability to learn and thrive. Many children benefit from sensory based therapy interventions to develop a routine and improve overall function in daily activities. As Pediatrician Angela Hansom said in a blog post, “In order for children to learn, they need to be able to pay attention. In order to pay attention, we need to let them move.”

By Danielle Rowland, MS, OTR/L

Occupational Therapist at Hegg Memorial Health Center Avera

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