Have a Preschooler Who Won’t Sit Still? There’s a Good Reason for That

Three and four-year-old kiddies have boundless amounts of energy. They generally only stop to eat, sleep and poop.

But what happens when your preschooler heads off to kindy or big school? How will he or she cope with the strict routine and the long periods between play?

After all, if they won’t sit still at home for longer than 15 minutes at a time (and usually only when they are glued to the TV), then how in the heck are they expected to stay seated and pay attention at school?

This is a common concern for mums of preschoolers. And with good reason. Society puts so much pressure on school readiness that most parents are anxious that their child isn’t ready. Especially if their preschooler is on the crazy side (and whose isn’t?).

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But here’s the thing… you don’t need to be concerned about your preschooler’s inability to sit still. Why? Because preschoolers are NOT supposed to sit still. They are supposed to be boundless balls of crazy energy. In fact, expecting them to sit still is actually harming them.

Chasing your child around all day is the NORM! 

Parenting guru Steve Biddulph is one of the leaders in raising boys and one of our very favourite parenting experts. Recently he shared a post about preschoolers and activity, explaining just how important it is to let our preschoolers play:

Movement is needed to develop the brain properly. It is so needed that it actually hurts to stay still.” – Steve Biddulph

Movement helps kids focus and retain information: the science behind it. 

It sounds silly, yes, but it really does hurt our preschoolers to sit still. Even science says so.

Kids need physical activity to truly be able to learn. In fact, there’s a direct link between the cerebellum (which is the center for motor control, or movement) and spatial perception, memory, and attention. In other words – kids need to get moving in order to access these areas of the brain.

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The studies back it too. According to a 2017 study published by Pediatrics, children who were given PE during the day performed better in maths, reading and composite scores.

This is especially the case with our little boys, who tend to be harder to get to sit still and focus. Another study, also published in Pediatrics, explains, “Reduced time for physical activity may be contributing to the discordant academic abilities between boys and girls because schools that promote sedentary styles of learning become a more difficult environment for boys to navigate successfully.”

How much activity should our preschoolers be getting?

Here are the current guidelines:

  • Children aged one to five should be physically active for at least THREE hours each day.
  • The activity should be spread across the day
  • The activity should include planned, adult-led physical activity and unstructured active free play
  • Children over three years should have one hour of energetic play every day (included in the three-hour recommendation), such as running, jumping or twirling
  • Children should not be inactive for more than one hour at a time (unless they’re sleeping)

Why are we putting so much pressure on our preschoolers? 

Back when we were kids we used to play A LOT more than now. We would spend every afternoon on the streets or in our backyards. We would go to parks, to playgrounds, to fields of dirt and dig with spoons. There was no such thing as an iPad and the fear of too much screen time wasn’t nearly as prominent as it is now. Why? Because kids were active by nature. And society was nurturing this notion.

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Preschoolers are still active by nature. This hasn’t changed. But our ability to nurture this activity has, thanks to our busy lifestyles, our reliance on technology and our growing concerns about safety.

There’s also the added pressure to perform in school, even at a young age, which isn’t necessary at all. Play, on the other hand, is necessary. Crazy, messy, active play.

Let your preschooler play 

So the next time you catch your preschooler jumping on the bed, rolling down the hill at the park or chasing the dog around the backyard, take a step back and let him.

The more energy he burns, the better for his brain. And the better for bedtime too!

We’ve got heaps of great preschooler activities to burn that excess energy. Check out:

Avatar of Jenna Galley

Born and raised in Canada, Jenna now lives in Far North Queensland with her tribe. When the mum-of-three is not writing, you can find her floating in the pool, watching princess movies, frolicking on the beach, bouncing her baby to sleep or nagging her older kids to put on their pants.

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