Fidgety 5 Year Old

Updated on October 31, 2012
K.B. asks from Detroit, MI
15 answers

My daughter just turned 5 this past summer and is now in kindergarten. She does great in class, listens really well, and for the most part, the temper tantrums and fits that she threw at 3 and 4 have almost disappeared. The issue I am having right now might seem like a silly one, but it still drives me nuts. DD is constantly moving about, and can barely sit or stand still for a second. Normally, I don't care, but when she wants me to help her get dressed or get her shoes on or do her hair, and she's constantly dancing and bopping about, it really gets to me. It's like she just can't listen to me when I ask her to stand still or don't move, even if it just for a minute.

I know I could make her try to perform these tasks herself, but that tends to backfire too. If we are in a hurry (i.e. getting ready for school), she tends to take forever to get herself dressed - she gets distracted by something, starts playing with a toy, dawdles, etc. Or she reaches a point where she is having trouble and starts getting really frustrated and I have to help her anyway. But in the process of changing clothes, she will jump, twirl, spin, start trying to balance on one foot, bounce off the side of the bed, want to show me something else she can do. Or she will have to start telling me something or ask a question, and as soon as she starts talking, everything else comes to a screeching halt. When I ask her to come to me or go somewhere, she will decide to do it as goofy as possible - crawling s-l-o-w-l-y up the stairs, walking on her knees, whatever. I find myself constantly telling her to stop, hold still, hurry up, do it the right way, etc. I will tell her that if she wants Mommy's help, she needs to help Mommy by cooperating better. Getting her dressed, I might have to tell her to hold still 6 or 8 times. If she happens to be sitting in a chair and wants me to put her shoes on, she starts kicking her feet. If she wants her hair done a certain way, she will suddenly want to walk away before it's done so she can go look at or show me something. I feel like everything takes 3 times as long to get done as it should because her behavior causes so much of a delay.

I realize a lot of this is probably normal for her age, and I do have her enrolled in dance and gymnastics to help her get some of the exercise that she needs - she just seems to have so much wiggly energy all the time and I wish she could turn it down during those times when I need her to. I also wish I had more patience and a sense of humor about it all but it's tough when it's day after day, all the time. She's a constant chatterbox too, so her energy is both physical and verbal.

She also has a tendency to ask questions over and over - she'll ask me something that I have to say no to, and then an hour later she's asking me again. Or I will give her an answer to a question, and minutes later, she's asking again. And again the next day. And the day after that.

Can you tell I've had a long day with her today? She didn't have school and I didn't have work, she's been up since 6:30am and it's now 8pm (yay, bed!), and I feel like I have a bowling alley installed in my head. Any ideas on how to cope or make it better? TIA!

ETA: I have wondered about ADHD, since she was 3 - I just figured it was too soon to tell and eventually, if it's there, it will become more apparent. I do know that as an infant, she loved to be propped up so she could see, she loved to be on the move and getting into stuff, and my mom said she was the busiest baby she had ever seen. Even as a newborn in the hospital, the nurses remarked on how alert she was. She's always been "busy" but a lot of fun. All of her teachers and coaches have said she's a joy to have in class!

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So What Happened?

Thanks everyone for your input - at least it helps to know that I am not alone and I am not a terrible mom for getting annoyed by it. The idea of it being SPD is an interesting one, so I will take that into consideration, but looking at the list of symptoms, she doesn't display any others - she's very sociable, has lots of friends, gets along with everyone, doesn't disrupt the class in any way, and has excellent fine-motor skills. She is still when she is drawing/writing/coloring (which she loves to do), or if she is super-tired and just watching TV - but otherwise she always seems to have ants in her pants. Last night I was trying to trim her nails after her bath and she kept wiggling around, so I told her to keep wiggling more and jump up and down until she was ready to hold still. She thought that was pretty hilarious! I might try getting a little more firm with her too. Thanks again!

ETA: To Carolynn - I am NOT labeling my daughter! I don't like "labels" either! I was only merely considering the possibility that there could be something more to it, but mostly looking for input and ideas on how to best manage her when I really need her to stand still and cooperate. Isn't that why we post questions on here? Judge much?

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answers from Jacksonville on

Sounds like my kid. I think it's just the age. I rarely ever hear, Oh, my 3 - 6 year old loves standing still and never asks me the same question twice. LOL

I think you are right in saying that it's way too early to diagnose ADHD, and I would think she would be having lots of trouble in school if that were the case. It doesn't just shut off at school time, then start when she gets home. :)

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answers from Austin on

Yes, she might be ADHD, but I also see the potential of Sensory Processing Disorder....

There are two main groups... those that are bothered by the extra sensory input (very sensitive to touch, sounds, tastes, etc.), and those that are SEEKING more sensory input.... and of course, you can get blends of this, too....

The kids that are super active like this are seeking MORE sensory input.... by constantly fidgeting, constantly touching things, stuff like that.....

OT and PT can help with this...... we've seen a lot of improvement since my grandson started OT and PT about 18 months ago... and more understanding of why he is like he is.

I also see how I have some facets of SPD in my life, also..... but it all comes down to how much does it interfere with a person's life.

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answers from San Francisco on

Okay, so you will get a lot of responses saying her behavior is perfectly normal.
And it probably is.
I had two kids before my third was born.
Sure they were silly and active but they also knew how and when to sit still, listen and follow simple directions.
My third one drove me crazy, couldn't sit still in a high chair or a stroller, and babbled and then later spoke and asked questions NON STOP.
Mommy what is this? what's that? why? look at me! SQUIRREL!!! (off like a lightning bolt in the other direction)
She was diagnosed ADHD at ten.
I'm not telling you this to make you worry, or label your daughter.
Just keep it in the back of your mind.
I was always convinced my daughter was just very physical, or immature, and I WISH I had had her tested earlier, like around 7 or 8, because it really would have made her 3rd through 5th grade years easier on all of us, especially her.
And no she's not medicated (though we may do that at some point) but it helps to know what we're dealing with.
Just food for thought, no judgement here :-)

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answers from Los Angeles on

I have one like this...

He just turned 7.

I have a total of 6 boys and 1 girl and of all the kids, he is THE WORST when it comes to the wiggles! We kid, that if anyone has ADHD, it might be him...we kid, but there is some truth there...if we ever have issues with him and school we will be looking into it...but for now, he is what and who he is.

~I send him to run laps through the house or around the house in good weather or drop down and give me X amount of push ups or X jumping jacks or my personal favorite: challenge him to stand on 1 leg! This is forced exercise to get out the wiggles and forced standing still, with the balance on 1 leg challenge. Lucky for me, he can NOT pass on a challenge!! :)

He is a handful and a half but he is *wicked smart* and one of those kids/people who is just awesome at EVERYTHING he tries/ I look at it as a trade off, kind of? Love that kid of mine!! His name is Wyatt and I wanted to name him Wylie but his Dad was not fond of the name...but the jokes on Dad b/c he is now SO a 'Wylie-Wyatt' ----->Ha!!!

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answers from Green Bay on

I used to teach kindergarten and there are some kids who are just more wiggly! I now teach Child Development at a local community college and I always talk about one student I had who NEVER just walked. He was always skipping, bopping, or dancing along. NEVER sat still, just ALWAYS had the wiggles. His pre-K teacher (on his report card) made it sound like this kid was AWFUL but I absolutely loved him! He wasn't sassy, he was just wiggly!!

I would make use of a timer...Like for those times when you are doing her hair. Set it for a few minutes and tell her she needs to sit still for that long. She can still talk to you - and keep her involved in conversation. If she wants to go show you something, have her tell you about it instead. Then when you are done, or when timer goes off, allow her a chance to show you.

Establish "silly" times and "serious" times. Times when she can go up the stairs as silly as she wants and times when she needs to cooperate and go up the stairs the right way.

Use the timer also to have her race herself. Time her getting dressed and see how fast she can do it. Can she beat her time from yesterday? If so, reward her - sticker chart, a chance to show you a new trick, etc.

On these days when she doesn't have school and you are alone with her, keep her busy. Let her help you run errands around the house (i.e. go put these socks in your drawer, go get me all of the towels from the bathroom so I can wash them, go put these towels in the bathrooms, ANYTHING you can think of!) Things might take longer, but letting her do things and appreciating her when she does a good job are important in building her confidence in her own abilities.

When she gets frustrated, tell her to try ONE MORE TIME. My FAVORITE line to use with my students when they finally got it (kept trying to zip their own coat, etc.), was "I KNEW you could do it!!" (lots of emphasis on KNEW).
GOOD LUCK!!! She sounds like a bubbly, bouncy, creative little one. Take a step back and take a moment to giggle at her silliness :-) Enjoy i

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answers from Dallas on

I second the sensory processing, especially the way she constantly moves, crashes into things, and dawdles. You might try searching information speifically around proproceptive and vestibular senses, as well as motor planning and motor skills. See if that doesn't sound a lot like the behaviors you're seeing from your daughter. A child can be both under and over, swinging betwen both. When feeling disorganized, they begin sensory seeking activities, such as spinning, dancing, crashing into things, moving all around, etc. I also thought my daughter had excellent fne motor skills, but they are NOT excellent...I just didn't know the signs to look for. On outward appearances, everything is on target with them....I was amazed when I saw the video of her testing and the things she did to compensate for the fine motor issues so that no one recognized the problems. She's an excellent litle artist and could do it for hours...who new that she was turning her paper around as drawing because she couldn't turn her wrist the way she needed to do it to hold the paper straight? Also, she has some excellent gross motor skills, but she has other gross motor skills that are lacking a bit....specifically in balance and stationary. Because it's hard for her to be stationary and to balance when sitting upright, she almost constantly moves because it's easier to balance an object in motion than one that is still (like a bicycle). She's just got some catching up to do on building her core muscles so that she can more easily sit still. Right now that's an exhausting workout for her. The thing is that she's strong as an ox, swims regularly, dances,'s not something an untrained eye regularly recognizes. Does your daughter cross midline? Do you know how to test that. Don't discount the possibility of sensory processing with your daugther. It's worth an evaluation with an Occupational Therapist.

By the way, 5-10% of the population that does not have any other issues have sensory processing dysfunction. Of the population with other diagnosis (ADHD, Autism, etc), 40-80% also have sensor processing dysfunction. SPD is not the same as ADHD or Autism, but it often does occur in conjunction Sensory processing is treated with therapy vs medications and can provide a great deal of help that will improve behavior, even if your daughter were found to have additional diagnosis.

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answers from Charlotte on

Added after your SWH - Mom, about what you said "she's very sociable, has lots of friends, gets along with everyone, doesn't disrupt the class in any way, and has excellent fine-motor skills" - your child could be very good at all of these and STILL have sensory issues. Please don't assume that because she is good at all of this, that sensory integration problems aren't present. Seek out an OT to make sure.

I would try this and see if it helps. When she is at the worst for wigglies (like when you are trying to put on her shoes, etc.) have her jump up and down without stopping for several minutes before starting to get her dressed. Tire out her muscles somewhat, and then try. Make sure she understands that as soon as she stops the jumping, she must sit still.

There's an old game that someone else will remember the name of that you do a physical thing, and then you have to "freeze". Incorporating that might help. It makes her focus on the "being still" as an actual activity.

Separately, I think that perhaps you might seek out an OT and talk to them about her sensory seeking activities. I do think that this is what she is really doing - seeking out real sensory stuff for her body. An OT who works with this could really help you.

Good luck!


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answers from Cincinnati on

My son is 5 now. When he was 4, he drove me nuts trying to help him get dressed. He wanted to get dressed by himself, but he wanted me to watch him and help him if he couldn't quite get it himself. That's all normal, but he took forever when he got dressed because he would jump around and chatter the whole time. I told him to focus and concentrate so many times I had dreams of me telling him to focus and concentrate.

So one day, I told him. "I know you want to get dressed by yourself. You are a big boy now. I believe you can do it all by yourself. Do you think that you can try to do it all by yourself? I'll be in the bathroom washing my face. If you have any trouble getting dressed, come get me." I went to wash my face. Suddenly, it was very quiet. But I waited it out, and before I had finished, my son came bouncing into the bathroom with a huge smile on his face. "I did it! " He beamed. Then I noticed he had his pants on backwards. I smiled down at him, and told him he did a great job with his shirt, but to take a look in the hallway mirror. He came back. "My pants look funny." We laughed, and I told him to carefully take off his pants, look for the tag, make sure the tag was next to his tummy when he held up his pants, and to try putting them on again. He came back a minute later and said thank you to me. After that day, I leave him alone to get dressed. I sometimes have to remind him to check the mirror, and help him turn his clothes the correct way when he misses the first time, but he picks his own clothes, gets dressed on his own, and I no longer have to deal with telling him to stop bouncing around when we do things. If your daughter gets distracted by other things when you leave her alone to get dressed, try making a game of it. "Let's see what we can do in 5 minutes. Will mom win, or will you win?"

As for fixing your daughter's hair, if she doesn't comply with you telling her to be still, she doesn't get her hair done the way she wants it. Simply brush it, or do what you can quickly. If it truly matters to her, she will be still.

My son loves to talk. We practice quiet time during the day. We do a kids yoga DVD every day for 30 minutes. (Yoga Kids Fun Collection with Marsha Wenig) The yoga has brought peace into my life. I also use the yoga to curb any arguments or temper tantrums. We also have independent time where I have my son draw, color, read his books and magazines, or do puzzles quietly for about 30 minutes every day. I put one of those 30 minute blocks in the morning and one in the afternoon. It helps to keep my head from exploding every day. I need my quiet time. And the kids yoga is fun to do together.

Since my son loves to talk, I try to make sure I give him my undivided attention at least once in the morning, once in the afternoon, and during our bedtime routine. We do a storytime daily. I ask him questions about the books we read. He also loves to tell stories. So we started doing story building recently. One of us starts the story, then we take turns making the story together, until one of us finishes that story. We also talk a lot about his artwork. He loves to ask me what I did when I was his age. We love going on discovery walks and talking about things we find or see happen. Look for ways to channel that love to talk.

As for the question asking, I would explain once why I said no. Then when she asks again, keep it short. "I told you that we don't have money for that now. We must do something else now. etc.) Don't ignore her, but keep it short. If she starts to nag you with the same question continuosly, disengage the conversation. "I said no." And then you walk away.

Hope that helps you both to have a more peaceful time.

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answers from Williamsport on

What is her discipline for crawling up the stairs in goofy manner (that's text book defiance when kid's don't want to comply), kicking for you to put on shoes, walking away mid-hairstyle and things like that? She is old enough to be told why that is not OK, warned not to do it again, and comply.

A certain amount of distraction and fidgeting is normal. We call my 6-year-old The Fiddler, because not only does she play the violin, but she FIDDLES with anything in her reach. I am constantly snatching things from her hands when she is in lessons etc-I don't even know where she finds the stuff half the time, but she has to fiddle with something, a paper clip-anything. Then her concentration shifts to what she's fiddling with, and the teacher is ignored, etc... If I'm reading her a book, she starts fiddling with the pages or my hair. On a constant basis it's ANNOYING, but she has also been raised from 18 months to do what we say, so we just remind her to stop and she does. She too gets easily distracted, but she's not allowed to "just not proceed" with what she's doing. If I tell her to get dressed, brush teeth and come down to breakfast, her natural desire would be to get sidetracked by a Barbie, dancing, or playing with a sibling, but she's got one warning of "For real now, we're going to be late" and she knows it. She's not allowed to foil things, get dressed wrongly, etc. It sometimes takes some coaxing, but she's disciplined not to push it past a certain point. Same with the constant questioning: NORMAL..omg, my son is 4.5 and he will repeat a question until I say, "That is enough, do not ask again, I really mean it." At that point he knows I'm serious so he'll stop, so it's usually my own fault for tuning him out and not "cracking down" until he's said it way too many times, because he too was raised to respond at verbal requests without too much drama.

As for the chatterbox, we all know what that's like on a chronic basis. That's why it IS OK to say, "I need some quiet right now, no talking please" in a respectful tone now and then, and to have her obey. That saves my sanity at times with three. Especially driving during a non-stop day when I just need a few minutes to listen to a song on the radio and not field rapid fire questions from three little mouths for the ENTIRE DRIVE. It sounds very harsh, but really it's much less harsh than getting pressed to your wit's end and snapping and screaming like lots of parents understandably do. Effective discipline can prevent all that. Sure if I'm trying to help my son get dressed, and he starts wrestling away, I may say a firm "STOP IT" rather than trying to be more nice about it, because he DOES know better, but he stops, because he knows discipline would be the next step (and I haven't had to follow through for two years) and then we can enjoy getting him ready much more, so the firmer approach paid off in prevention.

For your daughter's age, the book Back To Basics Discipline by Janet Campbell Matson is really great. Many don't like it because discipline starts so early in it (age one), but she's 5 so you don't need to worry about that. It may help you see where you can expect her to comply more like a lady and less defiantly or "without concern" for what you're saying. Once you enforce it effectively until it clicks, it does become natural. Since she's doing well in school, you know she CAN do it. Saying things like "Mommy needs you to cooperate if Mommy is going to help" pretty loosey goosey since really, she will get your help no matter what, and there is no negative consequence to her refusal to cooperate. She can probably benefit from a bit of firming up and it will ease your load. Check it out online to see if it might work for you.

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answers from Honolulu on

Oh boy, what a grande age.
Yep, they are like that.
As one friend used to tell me (and she is a Teacher), just be thankful, that our kids KNOW how to behave in school and do behave and listen and sit etc. But at home, they let it all hang out and this is where they deflate and be themselves.

I have a boy and girl. And let me tell you, my SON is MORE active at that age than my daughter ever was. But both, are completely great in school. And, when my son is tired/sleepy, he actually gets MORE active.
But no, nothing wrong with him nor any ADHD etc. He is just a boy. And he is 6 now, and he is just a typical child.
AND my son is the most talkative one in the family, but was speech delayed when he was a toddler. So I really don't mind. Because, his ability for self expression is very adept for his age etc.

Anyway, sure, some days its really irksome. But at this age they are very agile and active and talkative and so many moods and ideas and creative juices flowing!

But each day, we have a quiet time. It is DAILY ROUTINE, since my kids were younger. So they know it and do it and its fine. It is even quiet time for MOMMY too. I tell them that. We ALL do it, together. No matter where we are in the house.

The thing is: IF a child, can be more still/listen well and follow direction at school, then they are probably just fine. Because, they can turn it off and on per situation. BUT if a child is hyper and cannot.... listen/sit still/follow direction NO matter where they are and they are like this all the time and whenever and wherever... then that is when, you may want to be concerned.

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answers from Milwaukee on

My 5 year old DD is very on the move. She dances in the kitchen, jumps on the couch (in trouble for that), skips from room to room, climbs up and down on me when I am sitting, wiggles when I am helping her tie her shoe, rolls on the floor. It exhausts me just watching her. I am always saying "Can't you just sit still for like 5 seconds."? LOL She does sit still when doing art, writing or eating. It's just that she is mostly moving.

Oh and the talking - oh my! Non-stop chatterbox. I am quiet so it confuses me to have her talk at me all the time. Sometimes I wonder how she breathes as she is talking so much I don't see her take a breath.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

We're not doctors but all I can tell you is:
He's 9 now and somewhat less wiggly!
Patience, patience and more patience.
The timer is a good idea.
Or try making getting dressed a race or time her.

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answers from Kansas City on

oh boy....i have a 6 year old little boy that could be her brother :)

only we are having trouble with these things, at school. so count your blessings!

the thing is i feel like we deal with it better (or work around it better since he's an only child) than they can at school.

but i do tell him "IF you want me to help you, you MUST stand still. i'm not telling you again." and i don't. and he does it. with a little firmness and stubbornness you can get her to stand still for dressing.

i also find a kitchen timer works GREAT. either a game - "let's see if you can get dressed in FIVE MINUTES! you're FIVE, i bet you can!" or if i am frustrated, yes, "in five minutes if you are not dressed, time out. period."

i am happy for you that she doesn't have trouble at school. and i'm happy for me that we seem to do ok at home. but i wish for both of us that the other would rub off a bit! lol! good luck! (and yes, my baby was a super alert baby too - he was born full term holding his head up and looking around at the world - he was awake and alert almost the entire day he was born!)

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answers from San Francisco on


I could have written this post when my GD was 5! As I was reading, I was seeing those mornings when I was trying to get her ready for kindergarten while getting myself ready for work! It's all playtime and fun and games for them, and nothing for a stress fest for us! My GD loved to hide. So all morning she would run from one spot to another so she could jump out at me. I wanted to pull my hair out!

I will say that when she started 1st grade it was a bit better but by 2nd grade, the phase was over and now in 5th grade, she gets up at 7:00 and is ready to walk out the door at 7:30 with no help or prompting whatsoever.

If it might help, get her a stress ball that she can hold in her hand and squeeze and manipulate while you're trying to do her hair, etc. That may help stop the body movements so you can get her hair done!

Good luck! Like wine, it will get better with age.

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answers from Detroit on

>>>groan<<<< So you have an active child and you seriously are considering labeling her for life with ADHD and pop her full of meds? After comments like 'alert', '..a joy', etc.

Is this an inconvenience to you that you so concerned she's 'fidgety'? I mean kids are all different, just as all parents are different. But one little characteristic and it's off to the most popular disorder of the decade and a lifetime of potentially unnecessary meds that could really mess up their general health.

I'm sorry if I sound harsh, I really am. But it is so disheartening that so many parents these days jump on the ADHD bandwagon and sentence their children to a lifetime of drugs, and it may be totally unfounded.

There are just as many people out there that feel that many ADHD misdiagnosed kids out there are just lacking structure and discipline, and therefore run around a little bit on the wild side.

She's 5. She's curious and so asks a lot of questions. So what if she asks over and over. It's no big deal. She sounds excited to be 'a big girl' who goes to school. It's a whole new world to her, learning all sorts of things. If there are scholastic issues, the teachers will let you know, and they sometimes step over the line and put worry into parents' minds and suggest ADHD, and they shouldn't. It may be just as much a case of 'they can't deal with active kids' and therefore want them on lethargic inducing meds so THE TEACHER isn't put out.

Don't do this to your daughter. Let her grow and develop, as it might be a temporary thing. You won't know if you don't let normal, natural growth and development take its course.

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