Remember when you were pregnant and first felt the flutter of your unborn baby’s kicks? It was the most amazing thrill. As time went on, and you were constantly sensing the tumble and twist going on behind your belly, you thought, “Hmmm…a very active one.”
Chances are, your baby was no more active than average in utero. The twists and tumbles a fetus takes inside mom’s womb are actually helpful in the development of the brain’s neurons, the wiring that makes the nervous system work.
But what happens later on, when your baby is already born, growing, and mobile, may begin to indicate an over-active temperament. Little crawlers that never seem to stop, pay little attention when an adult is talking to them, and barely sit still to play with their toys may be seen by parents as over-active. Some children climb onto every available piece of furniture and take precarious positions on high surfaces, making mom feel as if her heart will fly out of her throat.
For any number of reasons, these panic-inducing children are more active than most. And while there is no “wrong” child, and being an active toddler is not necessarily a “problem”, it can set the stage for significant parenting challenges.
Here are some of the chief complaints from parents of the “highly-active” child:
- “I can’t take him anywhere. He won’t sit still for a minute, even to watch TV.”
- “If I ever take my eyes off her for a minute, when I turn around she’s doing something dangerous!”
- “He acts like he just doesn’t hear me when I call his name or say “no.” The doctor says his hearing is fine, though!”
From a clinical perspective, therapists assigned to work with a highly active child may find it challenging to engage the child in necessary activities. Our job is to work with you, your child, and his or her unique temperament to achieve the best possible outcomes.
Here are some two tips for dealing with the over active baby or toddler:
- Ultra-child proof your home, or at least a large part of your home. While knickknacks, framed photos, and other pretty things are important to you, a stress-free lifestyle may take priority. Putting away breakable items for a year or two allows you to preserve your knick-knacks, your sanity, and provides you with a measure of peace of mind while your child grows and develops. By the time your active child reaches the age of four, you will likely be able to set limits and rules that allow your child and your collections to co-exist in harmony. For now, it’s better to keep them out of sight and out of danger!
- Have your child play in his high chair, booster seat, or other restrained seat for five to ten minutes twice a day. Many active children actually relax and enjoy the feeling of being restrained, and are able to engage in play that would otherwise not be possible. Some good high chair activities include play dough work, wooden puzzles, blocks, and Lego play. You’ll be surprised at how involved your child can become in these activities once he or she is restrained in one spot.