Children who are bursting at the seams with energy have greater difficulty than other children in adapting to classroom restrictions: they must sit in a desk; they must sit still in a desk; they must walk, not run, in the classroom. Their excess energy also makes it harder for them to concentrate and learn like other children. For hyperactive children overactivity becomes even more of a problem, because they typically lack goals or purpose to their actions. Even though they are always on the go, they get little accomplished. Children’s overactivity may be rooted in genetic or organic causes, a learned response, or a reaction to stress.
- Provide children with regular physical activity. Hyperactive children usually do not perform well in team sports, because of the rules, small amount of playing time, and their tendency to play as a one-man-team. They do better in individual, constant-action sports such as swimming and running. One study reported improved attention and impulse control with learning disabled children who ran 45 minutes before they started school (Bass, 1985).
- Conduct art activities which let children use their hands such as clay modeling, wood-carving, macramé’, tie-dying, and finger-painting.
- In planning out your day, avoid scheduling more than two desk activities in a row.
- Reward the child for sitting increasingly longer periods of time in his seat.
- Make a Day in the life of —- video. This may help a hyperactive child realize how little he accomplishes for the amount of energy he spends. Or you can take the alternate route and produce an edited video, showing the child calm and poised at his desk, working conscientiously on his lessons.
- Assign an overactive child the title of classroom Secretary, Secret Agent, Deputy, or whatever title he likes the sound of. Let him wear a badge, and put him in charge of helping you. Aside from giving him legitimate reasons to get out of his desk, it also helps him direct his energy into useful activities.
- Teach the child to self-monitor his movements by using mechanical devices like a pedometer strapped to his leg or a wristactometer strapped to his wrist. Encourage him to aim for increasingly smaller activity levels.
- Choose an appropriate length of time for the child to sit still. Tell him that after each of these periods a timer will go off, letting him know that he can get out of his seat, stretch, walk to the back of the class, or do exercises. This gives him a controlled way of releasing his energy.
- With younger children invent a Magic Snooze Machine (alarm clock) which goes off at unpredictable times of the day. Explain to the child that a small elf lives inside and sleeps most of the day; but every so often he lets out a really loud snore, which sets off the magic snoozer. If the child is sitting in his seat when the snoozer goes off he earns a reward. Other children may also enjoy participating in this activity.
- If you notice a child getting overly excited, try distracting his attention or identifying for him that he’s having a difficult time staying calm. Have some calm-down activities on hand such as books and records.
- Many overactive children have poor control over the large muscle groups in their bodies. There are several activities you can conduct in helping them improve their coordination: walking on a balance beam; walking backwards, forwards, and sideways; crawling like a worm or walking like a duck; balancing books on their head; going to the right, left, over, and under objects; jumping on a trampoline or skipping a rope; using hoola-hoops; bike-riding; pumping swings; doing sit-ups and push-ups; playing soccer, tetherball, leapfrog, hopscotch, dodge ball, and baseball; playing mirror images where children copy each other’s movements; and holding poses in games like Freeze Tag and Statues.
- Some overactive children also have problems in coordinating how their eyes and hands work together. Fine motor skills can be improved by cutting, coloring, pasting, dot-to-dot sheets, stencils, shooting in a game of marbles, yo-yoing, puzzles, lacing boards, stringing beads, buttoning, tying, building models, Lego, building blocks, Atari games, spraying plants, pouring liquids, and typing.