FAQ #4: Is my toddler hyper…does he have an attention problem?

Sunshine…fresh air…going for a walk…playing on the playground…these are all signs of Spring, and I’m not sure who’s happier to see them come, me or my kids!
Yesterday my kids and I spent two hours playing at the playground.  It was exactly what we all needed!  My kids, like many other children, thrive on physical activity.  When they get enough of it they eat, sleep and behave better.  When my oldest was younger, people who saw her out in public (climbing the shelves at the grocery store or not sitting still in the shopping cart) would awkwardly comment, “Wow, she’s an active little girl!”  It was their nice way of saying they thought she was hyper!
However, you can’t really call a toddler “hyper”.  They are supposed to be up moving around all the time, exploring their environment, seeking out that physical activity that they enjoy most.  They may seem “hyper” to us but only because we can’t keep up with them.  And it’s okay if they don’t sit for quiet activities; reading a book, coloring, doing a puzzle.  At the active toddler stage those types of activities may not peak their interest and they may need some help from you to enjoy them.
Below are some ideas to keep your child active and help them quiet down when they need to:
 1.  Don’t stress if they won’t sit for the entire 30 minutes of story time.  I was one of those moms, soooo embarrassed that my 18 month old wouldn’t sit in my lap for the songs, rhymes and stories.  If you can relate to this scenario, slowly build up to the 30 minutes.  Join story time for 10-15 minutes, then step outside to let your child have a little break.  Also, don’t be stressed if they are up and moving around the room.
       2.  Take advantage of getting outside.  Playing ball, riding bikes, letting them out of the stroller to walk beside of you are all great ways to catch some fresh air and burn some energy.
L     3.  Limit the amount of time your child spends watching television.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no television before the age of 2 and only 1-2 hours for 2 years and older.  Try not to use the television as a babysitter, watch TV with your child and talk to them about what they see and hear on the program.  My kids LOVE TV and that is why I feel I have to limit it.  If the TV is on, they completely tune me out.  The glazed look they get in their eyes while watching scares me a little!  Why limit television?  When kids watch TV all the time they crave that fast moving change of scenery and flashing lights.  So when the TV is off they try to recreate those scenes by running around and have little interest in attending to other activities.  Their brains get used to a world that the TV creates and then they only want that world around them:  bright, fast moving, constantly changing.
        4.  If your child has difficulty sitting and attending to an activity, try placing them in their high chair.  This is a great place to do play doh, color or introduce puzzles.
        5.  And lastly, if your little one just wants to furiously turn the pages when you are trying to read a book, try reading during snack time.  You can also offer them something to hold in their hand while you read, like a squishy ball.  Make the story more interesting to your child by changing your voice or using exaggerated movements to go along with the story.  Read a book that allows your child to participate in the story like a lift-a-flap, touch and feel or pop up book.

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