It’s spring—finally! Which brings with it a fresh wave of energy from your—let’s face it—already energetic kids. While many of us also feel a renewed sense of energy once spring arrives, young children, and even many older kids, can be a little “extra” once the weather warms up. High-energy kids are delightful to watch but can be difficult to keep up with. Here are some tips for supporting them in channeling their energy in positive ways:
- Encourage physical activity. High-energy kids need an outlet for offloading their big-body energy. Give them job around the house. Suggest challenges at the playground. Free-play outdoors is always fabulous—but some children really thrive with structured lessons or classes too. There are always loud dance parties for letting it all out, too.
- Establish routines. If your kids know that there are going to be regular times for loud, big-energy activities, they may do better during the times when that is not as welcomed. Routine predictability also helps kids to feel less anxious and more secure.
- Offer nutritious snacks and meals. Good nutrition helps fuel healthy playtime. Sugary snacks are yummy, but foods high in protein and complex carbohydrates provide sustained energy and help regulate blood sugar levels and prevent energy spikes and crashes.
- Set the stage for dramatic play (and use props). Dress-up time and self-directed imaginative play are great for focusing some of that wild energy and fostering creativity and social skills. Adding props to even the most mundane activity can make it much more fun. Give your kids a small clipboard with a checklist at the grocery store. Wear fancy hats to lunch with Grandma. Sometimes a flair for the dramatic can channel things considerably.
- Foster positive relationships and social skills. Sometimes children with lots of energy are moving around too quickly to engage in or learn social skills. Pre-teaching expectations for playtime (e.g., greeting everyone, turn-taking, etc.) can be helpful. When the adults model these skills, kids learn them best.
- Create opportunities for quiet time (sometimes without screens). Down time is, counterintuitively, even more important for high-energy kids. Try to create specific times of day that are focused on quieter activities. Screen time is certainly fine, and it helps to have a plan to follow (see resources). Keep in mind that some video games and shows can actually be overstimulating even though they are technically sedentary activities.
Lots of energy can mean lots of fun, especially when you keep these tips in mind and meet your growing children where they are. Sometimes that means just jumping up and down right along with them and then gradually slowing down until they have settled a bit. As usual, consistency, good communication, and empathy when things go awry will always be helpful.
This article was originally published in the March/April 2023 issue of Parent & Family.
Sarah MacLaughlin is author of the award-winning books, What Not to Say: Tools for Talking with Young Children and Raising Humans With Heart. Her writing has also been featured in The Huffington Post. Sarah is a human development nerd who brings over 30 years of experience working with children and families to her coaching practice. Sarah is also mom to a teenager who gives her plenty of opportunities to take her own advice. Reach out for parenting support via her “Get In Touch” page.