I was out to dinner with my son and his family and while the three-year-old was not being disobedient, he was a constant center of motion. Under the seat, standing on top of the seat, falling over, jumping up … you get the picture.
My son said, “People say they’d like to have his energy, but you know what? I’m actually glad I don’t. Jumping around that much would be embarrassing.”
Kids have energy. Kids wiggle. Kids like to jump, hop, run, skip, climb …
That’s the way God made them.
If God wanted kids to sit still with their hands folded, He would have made them that way.
Don’t get me wrong. Kids do need to learn self-control and to sit quietly – at least for a little while in certain circumstances (like church or school), but let’s not overdo it.
Often we make kids sit still for inordinate amounts of time and grow impatient when they start kicking their feet or bouncing or doing whatever they can to move.
Here’s something encouraging discovered through a study at the University of Central Florida. When kids are not storing and processing information, they can sit quietly (for instance, when they are watching TV.) When kids are storing and processing info, they often need to move. (Keep that in mind the next time you’re teaching a group of Cubbies.)
Another study in North Carolina showed that some kids retained more of what they read, if they were allowed to do something active at the same time. One school started a Ride and Read program where kids were allowed to ride stationary bikes while reading. This worked especially well with the boys and some who did not like to read before the bikes, grew to enjoy reading.
(This doesn’t stop with kids. A study reported by Psychology Today showed that people who doodled while listening actually had 30% better memory retention than those who don’t.)
We could start a debate about these findings, but let’s not. Instead, let’s look at some ways we can give kids opportunity to use their energy in a positive way.
- Alternate active and quiet activities in club.
- Sing songs with active motions. (You can divide a long large group lesson with an active song or two.)
- Be patient with the child who is swinging his foot or playing quietly with his pencil (as long as he’s not making noise or bothering his neighbor). Sometimes that one “allowed” motion keeps him from being disruptive in other, more noisy ways.
- Give kids opportunity to study their verses in unique ways – with the agreement that they won’t bother other clubbers. We had a middle school teen who learned best while walking around the game circle. She didn’t bother other kids and truly did learn her verses. We had a T&T girl who said her verse to me one night while standing on her head.
- Be aware of the kids whom you’re teaching. Do you see a child getting restless? Call him or her up to help you hold a visual or to help you move the podium. (Be creative, how can you get her moving?)
- Interact with your kids while teaching. Can they all stomp the floor when an earthquake happens? Can they act out climbing when talking about Zacchaeus? Can they repeat a phrase or verse that you’re using in your lesson? (Even talking uses up some energy.)
Instead of attempting to “dewiggle” (yes, I invented that word) kids, let’s be creative in using their energy in a positive way.
God tells us in His word that we are fearfully and wonderfully made.
God created kids to wiggle.
Let’s be thankful for all that wiggling.