Why do children need to move

If you have ever had the chance to participate in or eavesdrop a conversation between parents of young children a common refrain, often is, “She just doesn’t sit still! I get so tired running behind her.” “It’s like he has skates on his feet. If he is not running, he is jumping, if not jumping, he is bouncing. I am just fed up asking him to be still!’


Now imagine a 3 or a 4-year-old child sitting still for majority of the day by choice. What would your reaction be? Surely you would go running to the doctor to find out what is wrong. So, we know that movement is natural for a child. We also need to understand how strong this need is, that pushes the child to constantly keep trying out different types of movements. 


From birth, the child is working to develop himself, develop different muscles and skills. 

When the child meets this need then they build their muscles stamina and gross motor skills. But it is not just his body that develops through movement. It is also the mind. For example, when the child jumps from the bed the child is judging height and force. Every physical activity develops connections in the brain.

We often hear people say that children of today are hyperactive. The environment available to children today varies from the older times. We often have residential areas where children are not able to fulfil their need for movement. There are fewer parks and playgrounds and fewer parents who are back in time from work to take their children. Let’s be honest, even if we get back in time, how often do we have the energy to take them out and run behind them to supervise them. 

Earlier there were plenty of opportunities to play outdoors a lot and run, jump, climb trees and meet the need for movement. Nowadays, children get frustrated as they do not get as much movement as they need. And we would rather make them sit quietly because finding ways to give them movement is challenging for us. 

Now we have scientific research that shows that the brain of the child is directing the child to behave in a certain way. The child needs to do these things to grow and thrive.

So, firstly we need to fire our creative cells to see how we can help them fulfil their need for movement with the very real constraints of our lives. Can we have a trampoline or teach them to skip. Could our terraces or parking lots serve as playgrounds with adults responsibly supervising the safety aspect? While structured movement classes are a better option than not having any movement at all, do see if you can give your child unstructured free play as often as possible, maybe with a ‘safe room’ within the house where they can bounce balls or jump over piled up cushions. 

Secondly and more importantly, once we understand that their behavior is stemming from an inner drive and we can understand their needs then we will be able to understand their actions better and this helps us interact with our young ones accordingly. 


Author : Seemanthini Iyer, is a certified parent educator with Parenting Matters, an organization which empowers parents to build deeper connection in families.