Embracing these 4 fidgeting styles may help online learning

By: Gahmya Drummond-Bey

What’s your child’s fidgeting style? Gahmya Drummond-Bey, a virtual teacher through two pandemics, explains why identifying your child’s style is critical to healthy online learning.

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We all fidget. As individuals, we all need different forms of stimulation. As adults, we may often find ourselves tapping our feet, clicking our pens, yawning repeatedly (even when we aren’t tired) or twirling our hair during long meetings. This is natural. And it is natural for children to do the same, especially when it comes to online learning.

As an educator, now teaching online even more than in the classroom due to the current pandemic, I often witness parents whispering to their children to “Be still,” “Put that down,” or “Stay put.” I can understand why many parents believe that they are helping by doing this. We’re often taught that being focused means showing unwavering attention. However, this isn’t the case.

Many children need to move, and different forms of stimuli often help them to focus even better.

I have been teaching in online learning environments for over seven years, and I like to encourage parents and caregivers to embrace their child’s fidgeting by observing their fidgeting style and providing them with the most supportive tools.

Busy hands

Children who focus better by keeping their hands busy are often more attentive when their hands are occupied. They may play with their pencils, tap their desks or seem to always have something in their hands. You could support them by giving them a sketch pad and art supplies to doodle with off camera.

Busy mouth

Some children focus while keeping their mouths occupied. My younger sister would often chew her tongue while drawing and coloring. Some children sing, make silly sounds or even chew things. You could help a child with a “busy mouth” by giving them something warm, like tea, to sip slowly during their lesson. You might also try chewable pencil toppers.

Busy touch

Textures really help to keep some children physically stimulated when focusing. For them, it isn’t necessarily about moving their hands, it’s about what they are actually touching and how it feels. For a child with “busy touch,” you could provide them with clay, play putty or play dough to squish around; a stress ball; or balls of cotton pulled apart.

Busy body

I often have students who need to get out of their seats, kick things in front of them or shift their weight. You could help a child with a “busy body” to stay focused by switching their chair for a balance ball, a wobble chair or an under-desk bike. You may also consider wrapping resistance bands around the legs of their chair, or the desk in front of them, to give them something to bounce their feet on.

Whether your child seems to have busy hands, a busy mouth, busy touch or a busy body when it’s time to stay focused, remember that it’s completely natural, and that by embracing their particular style of fidgeting, you can help them deepen their online learning experience and learn even more. We all fidget. It’s natural.

Looking for more online learning content? Read here how this teacher tackled her online learning challenges.

About the author:

Gahmya Drummond-Bey is a global curriculum designer, TED speaker, author, and award-winning parenting and tech writer. As the founder of Evolved Teacher, Inc., Gahmya has redesigned learning platforms in over 30 countries and on five continents and taught through three pandemics, making her a leading expert in the field of education.


The author has been compensated by Verizon for this article.

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