How to Manage Hyperactive Children in Class and at Home

Boy playing with letters in a classroom.

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Hyperactivity and constant fidgeting cause problems at home and at school. The strategies that follow can help control hyperactive motor activity and reduce anxiety for the child, their teachers, and their parents.

Note that students with learning disabilities sometimes have difficulty with fidgeting. This is particularly true of students who also have attention deficit disorders with hyperactivity (ADHD). These tips can help to manage such motor activity, whether used alone or with a comprehensive behavior intervention plan.

Tips for Teachers

The following strategies can help teachers to manage hyperactivity in the classroom:

Don't Withhold Recess

While it may be tempting to withhold recess or physical playtime as punishment for hyperactive behaviors, it is generally not a good idea for teachers to do that. In fact, withholding physical play can make classroom hyperactivity worse. Unfortunately, research shows that taking away recess is a common punishment for kids who misbehave in class.

Instead, if you need to discipline a hyperactive child, find an alternative method. You might assign the child to trash duty after school, for example.

Students with hyperactivity need physical activity to run off excess energy. Being active in appropriate situations, such as recess or study breaks at home, also reinforces the message that hyperactivity can be appropriate in these settings and situations. Using a fidget or sitting on a chair that moves can also help a child release some energy while remaining seated.

Pair the Child Up With a Buddy

Consider pairing the student with a buddy to run classroom errands, pass out papers, wash the blackboard, or other physical chores. This strategy gives students a break and a chance to move while also letting them feel helpful. At home, break for physical activities outside such as a game of catch, running, basketball, or other highly active sports. This type of physical activity may reduce fidgeting and often increases tolerance for seatwork.

Allow the Child to Stand

Consider using a standing workstation or work area with a beanbag chair at the side or back of the room that allows the student to stand to do work. If this helps, allow the student to choose to stand to work or move to the beanbag when they feel the need. Beanbag chairs can sometimes help students with sensory integration problems, which some hyperactive children have.

Use a Stress Ball

Provide a stress ball or other quiet squishy toy for the child to squeeze in their pocket or at their desk. These kinds of toys can focus attention, particularly in students with sensory integration issues.

Encourage Attention to Detail

If the student rushes through their work, prompt them to check it carefully before turning it in. This will teach them to pay attention to details to avoid making sloppy mistakes that can hurt them academically. Breaking down tasks into smaller pieces can also help students with hyperactivity succeed.

Give Second Chances

When grading the student's work, mark errors and allow them to recoup partial credit for corrections they make. This, too, will teach them to pay closer attention to detail and provide motivation to revise their work.

Allow Time for Breaks

At school, provide breaks between assignments and during extended periods of seatwork. Consider allowing the student to walk laps in the gym, do isometric exercises, stretches, and breathing exercises to relieve tension at least once an hour. This might be as simple as walking to the office to pick up something or doing a few jumping jacks in the hall. In fact, while at school, the whole class can benefit from these stress and tension relievers.

Tips for Parents

There are many things parents of kids with hyperactivity can do to help their children succeed at school and home, including providing positive feedback, visual reminders, and calm, loving guidance. Many of the above suggestions can also be useful at home, such as encouraging your child to take movement breaks between activities.

Recognizing that hyperactivity is not the same as willful misbehavior can also help parents respond to their child with patience and empathy. Many children with hyperactivity simply need to move their bodies frequently, which is why they may fidget and have trouble holding still. Impulse control and focusing may also be challenging for them.

Note that structure—combined with flexibility as needed—is often beneficial for keeping kids on track.

Additionally, parents and teachers should aim to foster an open dialog to help determine which strategies work best to support the child and ensure their needs are being met.

Also, if a child's hyperactivity is above normal or is interfering with their day-to-day life, parents should talk to their pediatrician. The child might benefit from screening for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. If they have ADHD, treatments may include medication, talk therapy, and other support measures.

A Word From Verywell

Note that some children are distracted by other students' fidgeting behavior, which may foster more hyperactive behavior. Allow these students to work away from the fidgeting student or work in a pleasant study carrel.

Crucially, remember that all children want to do well. It can be very challenging for kids to stifle hyperactivity, so aim to react to this behavior calmly and with understanding. Additionally, provide a supportive environment that addresses their need to move.

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4 Sources
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  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Understanding ADHD: Information for parents. Updated September 25, 2019.

  2. Turner L, Chriqui JF, Chaloupka FJ. Withholding recess from elementary school students: policies matter. J Sch Health. 2013;83(8):533-41. doi:10.1111/josh.12062

  3. Hinshaw SP, Arnold LE; For the MTA Cooperative Group. ADHD, multimodal treatment, and longitudinal outcome: evidence, paradox, and challengeWiley Interdiscip Rev Cogn Sci. 2015;6(1):39-52. doi:10.1002/wcs.1324

  4. National Institute of Mental Health. Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Updated September 2019.