Hyperactive or Just Full of Energy????

Updated on July 06, 2010
S.P. asks from Raleigh, NC
12 answers

I have a wonderful little boy who will be 4 in October. I'm wondering if maybe he has a hyperactive disorder or if this is just the normal energy of a 3 1/2 yr old. He just can't seem to be still when we go in public. He doesn't seem to have attention issues, he loves to read books, practice writing letters, playing with his toys, can sit through a movie or cartoon with no problem, etc. The issue is when I try to take him out somewhere it's as if the excitement is more than he can handle. When we go to the grocery store he just can't walk through the store, he's skipping or jumping, or reaching for things on the shelf. Last night we went to watch some fireworks. We had a blanket laid on the lawn and did not sit still for one minute. Constant crawling on the blanket, trying to roll accross it, and climbing on us. He also talks SO much, it's almost non-stop, especially when he is excited over something. Sometimes he repeats things or asks silly things like "what is grass called?", as if just talking to hear himself talk. He is a wonderfully sweet boy and I don't want to make something big out of nothing, but just wondering about other kids his age. He started preschool last fall and didn't have any issues. I know it's a bit young to diagnose something like this, but don't want to ignore this if it needs attention. We are going out of town to a wedding this wk and I'm really wondering how I'm going to keep him still and quiet. I appreciate any advice or experiences. Thanks!

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answers from Augusta on

It sounds like he's a 4 yr old.
You can't diagnose ADHD at 4 yrs old because normal behavior is much like ADHD symptoms.
But speaking of ADHD there are 3 types of ADHD it's not all the same.

1. ADHD, Combined Type: Both inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity symptoms.

2.ADHD, Predominantly Inattentive Type: Inattention but not hyperactivity-impulsivity symptoms.

3. ADHD, Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type: Hyperactivity-impulsivity but not inattention symptoms.


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answers from Dallas on

I totally agree with the other moms. Sounds like a typical kid to me! The fact, that he can focus well on some actives, (like reading) and does well in preschool suggests he is not hyperactive. It's great, that he is talking and trying to communicate all the time. (it might sound like babbling to us adults, but it is really him learning to communicate.) He will continue to ask silly questions for the next years. If it's possible, I would sit close to the back in the wedding. Any almost 4 year old would have a hard time sitting though a wedding!!! Good luck!

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answers from Charlotte on

He sounds like every other kid! my 4 year old is the same way also jumping or grabbing and talking! heres my advice on the wedding, if you have an ipod or something let him watch that during the ceremony...i did that for my husbands cousins wedding and my kid didnt make a peep the whole time! and dont let anyone make you feel guilty about doing something like that, boys dont care about weddings anyways!!!

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answers from Rochester on

So normal!!! Sounds like my 3 1/2 year old! He can sit still when needed (reading, etc.) but has a normal energy level which you are allowing him to put into play. He will need lots of running time or playing time at this wedding, so I would suggest calling ahead or checking online and locating some parks nearby and plan to spend time at them. He will need it to break up the time away and get that energy out, especially if you are spending time in the car getting there. We saw fireworks last night, too, and I literally ran laps around our table and blankets with both boys (almost 2 years old and 3 1/2 years old) for at least fifteen minutes, plus at least a half an hour talking to the fire fighters with the truck while they showed a bunch of kids all the equipment and let them inside. It is great that you are open-minded and not leaping to conclusions about hyperactivity. Too often we are so tired that our kids overwhelm us and we want them to have less energy. At that age my parents were sending us out in our backyard (it was more like a field) and we were outside almost all day exploring and adventuring. I think we have to keep on top of our kids more these days for safety reasons and it is more that we can't keep up than that they are going too fast. Have fun at the wedding and plan to run him hard! :)

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answers from Chicago on

He sounds rather typical to me. As for sitting still at the wedding ceremony is it a church ceremony? Does he go to church regularly if not visit one n you r area before you go and remind that the priest is the only one who talks and he can ask questions in a very quiet voice also bring along a few books for him to look. During the dinner portion of the evening make him get his wiggles out in the foyer and bring something for him to do like a mini magna doodle or put together a little lego car while the food comes if all else fails back to the foyer for wiggle removal. Good luck!
J. O
mom to 5 almost 6

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answers from Sarasota on

My almost three year old is the same--we watched a construction video with him yesterday (which he LOVES) and we were laughing so hard because as soon as he got one question out of his mouth, he'd hear ONE word of the narration and ask a question about that. Like "What's contruction?" even though he knows perfectly well what it is. And forget restaurants...

But I remember my brother was the same for a long time. My parents just always made sure he had an outlet for his energy and tried not to ask TOO much of him. (church followed by a meal out would be too much :-)

As for the wedding--a new book with play value (pop up, slide, doors)? silly bandz? Anything quiet, small and new seems to work for a bit--then give him a chance to run around!

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answers from Phoenix on

Skim through the book 'raising your spirited child' and see if it fit him. Sounds a LOT like what my almost 2 year old is like...and probably still will be like in 2 years!


There is a good comparison between spirited kids and ones that may have ADHD in the book.

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answers from Las Vegas on

He sounds like a typical kid. Kids have the energy us adults need and they do ask silly questions over and over again. If you are concerned about his energy level and are having difficulties getting him to sleep, I would suggest taking a good look at what he is eating during the day. I'm sure that you don't have to tell you that sugar can make kids go a little crazy but, also, those artificial colors and preservatives that you find in all those packaged foods can increase hyperactivity. Actually, those three things are not good for any kid to consume but I think that there are some kids that are extra sensitive to sugar and chemicals -- they don't metabolize it the same way as other kids and it does interfere with their energy level and ability to pay attention.

Best of luck to you and your son. Happy 4th of July!

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answers from Dallas on


I have come to realize that our society cannot just leave well enough alone- there has to be a "label" for everything. When did we start expecting our children to behave like slugs?

Think back as early as you can remember: going to the grocery store was an adventure, fireworks were like magic, and every day there was something new to discover.

Embrace his energy and let him explore childhood.


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answers from Seattle on

The reason you can't diagnose adhd from hyperactive behavior in toddlers is that MOST toddlers are hyperactive. It's how they are *SUPPOSED* to be.

Now... some toddlers are super mellow... but they are the rare ones.

How you diagnose adhd in toddlers is by looking for other symptoms of the disorder that are NOT age appropriate. Like intense concentration that can last for hours ((most toddlers have an attention span of 15-20 minutes if you're lucky... adhd not only comes with the distractability and energy... but also hyperFOCUS. If it's interesting we're on it like white on rice. In toddlers for up to several hours... in adults we're talking 4-20 hours EASY (without peeing, eating, or in any other way "coming up for air" until something grabs our attention... and then our body rather irritatedly presents it's "list of complaints"... like the fact that if we don't make it to the bathroom in less than 10 seconds we're going to have an accident! The adrenalin will usually get us to the bathroom okay... but then we're talking dizziness & stars from lack of food... bruises from leaning on one part of our body for too many hours... the list goes on).))

Other less well known diagnostic criteria for adhd include things like hypervigilance, hyperawareness (usually manifests in sensory issues, both positive and negative), giftedness, multitasking (like working better/being calmer in chaos rather than quiet... a fairly well known example is that adhd school kids usually needs loud exciting music on in order to be able to focus on boring work... whereas a non-adhd kid needs quiet, or calming music played quietly), & opposite stimulant reaction. (Stimulants in small doses perk us up and focus us... but in larger doses actually put us to sleep. For boring meetings I have to sit still through, I can drink a Venti Caramel Macchiato and be mistaken for being stoned).

Movies don't count for hyperfocus, btw, as movies can zone out most humans, regardless of age. Flashing pictures and sound... they're hypnotic.

You're little boy sounds lovely, btw. But while he might be adhd... everything you described sounds like a perfectly normal, healthy, toddler. Although the reasons you gave *against* the idea that he might have adhd don't carry weight. Many adhd kids do phenomenally in school (especially in school settings where they follow their interests for the majority of the day... like montessori or waldorf or most gifted schools), since they have longer attention spans than most toddlers, and are so emotive the social thing isn't an issue until they become a "trouble maker" or aren't responding "correctly" to social cues (aka in preschool a lot of adhd kids are uber-popular), and as was already mentioned... the whole hyperfocus thing. It's not that adhd kids and adults can't pay attention... it's that we can't pay attention to anything b.o.r.i.n.g., and that we often get lost in the wild adventures going on in our own minds, or in the wonder of the world around us.

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answers from Detroit on

Sounds a lot like my daughter who will be turning 3 next month - always on the go, always trying to do something, a regular little busy-body. There are some days I wish she would take it easy but honestly, I'd rather have her like this then be a slug on the couch all the time with no interest in anything. She's curious, she's inventive, and she's constantly got something to say. Only time will tell if this will turn out to be an issue, when she is older and starts school full-time and is expecting to sit still, pay attention and focus more. But right now I'd like to think it's a good thing!

When she was 12 to 18 months, my mother would remark on how "busy" she was, and how at that age, I wasn't so "into everything" - I would just sit and play with my toys and look at books and not bother anyone. I think my mom isn't remembering things right - I think I was probably closer to 4 or 5. I personally think it's useless to make comparisons because every kid is an individual and there is a broad range of what can be considered normal. My daughter does do pretty good at restaurants so long as she's got crayons to color with (she also enjoys stacking the creamers and other forms of playing around with items on the table - within reason). My mom keeps bugging me about when I'm going to start taking her to church, and I'm like, really? You really think she's going to sit still through an hour long mass? Remember how my brother was at that age? Same thing!

I would agree that having some little things to occupy him will be helpful; you can also try explaining to him ahead of time the behavior that you expect of him in this situation; that he will need to sit still and keep quiet; then remind him when he starts to get too wiggly what he's supposed to do; if he still is having a hard time, one of you may have to take him outside. Let him burn some energy off when he has the chance.

I also agree that I think we tend to over-label and over-diagnose "problems". I know it's important to get a handle on things early, but I think it's also made some of us more into paranoid worry-warts that can't just let our kids be kids and enjoy and appreciate them for who they are. Or as my mom would tell me, "They're only little for a little while."

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answers from Charlotte on

He is just being a boy. They are so full of energy. For the wedding try coloring books & crayons; dry erase board, the tag or leapfrog devices that read books (with headphones); diji (from leap frog personal handheldmgame system); or a psp (i think that is the name-hand held playstation). Good luck.

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