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Child Refuses to Sit Still

April 10, 2010

Question:  “How do we corral the student who refuses to sit during class?”

If the child’s movement is not a significant distraction to the class, then allow him or her some freedom!  Many students with ADD/ADHD or on the autism spectrum need to move.  In fact many kinesthetic learners learn best on their feet.   Children’s ministers can most help children with special needs by reshaping the expectations of the volunteer teachers.  If a child’s movement is not dangerous or disruptive, encourage teachers and caregivers to both tolerate wiggles and pick their battles.   Oftentimes nonconforming children are just trying to function within their learning style and meet their legitimate sensory needs.  Keep in mind that all children need movement, some just more than others.

  • Allow alternative seating, utilizing a bean bag or therapy ball instead of a chair.
  • Incorporate gross motor play or allow a quick turn jumping on a mini trampoline prior to story time.  Many children sit still once they get their wiggles out.
  • Offer play-dough, stress balls, or other manipulative toys during story time.  Keeping a child’s hands busy often keeps him engaged.
  • Provide three dimensional figures or a tangible object with a tie to the Bible story.  Allow children to pass the object(s) around during teaching.  Incorporating manipulatives into the lesson often draws in otherwise uninterested participants.
  • Create activities involving bins of rice, sand, dried beans or pasta.  A child may remain at the table longer with projects providing tactile sensations.
  • Boredom often spurs wandering.  Devise lesson plans and activities to hold the attention of children of all ability levels.

Remember, just because a child is not sitting still and maintaining eye contact does not mean the word of God is not getting through. Pray that God continues to provide the children’s ministry team creative ways to engage all children of all ability levels.

For more on this topic, see the posts How a Slinky can Teach Creation and ADD/ADHD.

Jackie Mills-Fernald

Jackie Mills-Fernald is the Director of McLean Bible Church’s Access Disability Ministry (McLean, VA).

  1. veronica permalink

    I love this bit of information. I will try it in time of need. Thank you

  2. Children fidget! God made them that way! Adults need to be more accepting of this and not necessarily put a negative interpretation on it. It keeps their brains awake.

    Sometimes that good little girl who is a treasure to have in the class is off in some day dream. I know – I was that little girl! Whereas my figety boys are often far more engaged than they appear.

    Good article! Thanks

  3. Thanks Brenda and Veronica for your comments. Yes, I used to be the that frustrated volunteer constantly trying to make some poor kid still still with their hands folded. I look back and feel sorry for the sweet adventurous children I taught 10 years ago before I started writing on this subject -and- became a mom myself to one of “those” type kids!

    P.S. Love our U.K. readers! 🙂

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