190

Reading Aloud to Kids Who Can’t Sit Still

Do your children have a hard time sitting still during read-alouds? Many kids do. They can sit still for two minutes, and then—ZOOM!—they are off. There are so many interesting things to do at any given time. There are block towers to construct, cool insects to check out, computer games to play, and physical feats to perform. Sometimes all at once! Life is great!

Good listening comprehension spills over into good reading comprehension, so you definitely want to figure out how to make read-aloud time doable for you and your child.

Reading Aloud with Active Children

Reading aloud for twenty minutes a day is important. In fact, read-aloud time is so important that it is built right into the All About Reading program, with a prompt in every lesson to remind you.

Reading Aloud to Kids Who Can't Sit Still - All About Reading

10 Tips for Reading Aloud to Kids Who Can’t Sit Still

Here are 10 ideas to try if you have an active child.

  1. Read after physical activity. Make sure that he gets plenty of physical activity—riding a bike, playing tag, rolling down hills, climbing the jungle gym—kids are designed to MOVE, so take care of that need before expecting them to sit still for a book.
  2. Consider the timing of your read-alouds. Some children have an extra dose of energy right after breakfast, so this wouldn’t be the ideal time to ask them to focus on a storybook. Midafternoon or bedtime may be a better choice.
  3. Keep your children engaged with interactive books. Let them lift the flaps, pull the tabs, count the cats. Here’s a list of some really good interactive books.

  4. Listen to audio books in the car.

  5. Read to your child while he’s in the bathtub.

  6. Read during lunch or snack time.


    Reading Aloud to Kids Who Can't Sit Still - All About Reading


  7. Let your child sit on a Move-N-Sit cushion.

  8. Try reading books that appeal to your child’s unique interests.
  9. Eliminate avoidable distractions such as cell phones, the television, or computer games being played in the background.
  10. Set a timer for read-alouds. This way your child knows that there will be a definite end to the sitting-down-and-listening part of his day. He knows that the timer will go off, reminding you that book time is over and he can propel off like a rocket to his next adventure.

One Final (Slightly Controversial) Tip

I didn’t believe this tip until I worked with some serious wigglers myself.

Some children need to be actively doing something with their hands in order to concentrate.

This can be as simple as holding a toy car and spinning the wheels or as involved as building a jigsaw puzzle or coloring with crayons.

Reading Aloud to Kids Who Can't Sit Still - All About Reading

Some children are so overwhelmed by the act of sitting quietly and concentrating that they simply cannot stay still, making it nearly impossible for them to listen.

But when a child is allowed to quietly play with something during reading time, he can expend physical energy in a nonintrusive way and focus on listening to the story. Of course, if the quiet play escalates into a full-fledged game, then attention will wander and any positive listening benefits will be lost.

Here’s the key: let the child stay engaged in a calming activity during read-aloud time and help him learn the boundaries of what constitutes a “quiet” activity (this definition can vary family to family).

Here are a few ideas for keeping hands busy:

  • Thinking Putty
  • Playdough
  • modeling wax
  • Lego® bricks
  • doodling
  • lacing cards
  • coloring
  • knitting
  • building blocks
  • beading
  • making friendship bracelets

Experiment to see what works in your household. Some children are helped by keeping their hands busy, while others are distracted by it. Some children are able to focus better in the morning, while others have a calm, receptive mind before bedtime.

Making read-aloud time work for your family may require a bit of trial and error. If read-aloud time isn’t working right now, I encourage you to try some of the ideas shared above. Don’t give up! It is critical to develop your child’s listening comprehension through read-alouds, so experiment and be open to trying new things.

Is your child a wiggler? Do you have a read-aloud tip to share?

Read-Aloud Tips Recommended by Our Readers:

  • Put a pile of clean laundry in the middle of the floor and have the kids fold while mom reads. (Recommended by Molly M. via Facebook)
  • I read aloud at the deserted park near our house, while he moves. It’s how he learns best! (Recommended by @nottheformerthings via Instagram)
  • I have my wiggler brush my hair while I read aloud to him. He sits on the couch and I sit on the floor. That way he can see over my shoulder to any pictures. His hands stay busy and he listens! (Recommended by Gina via blog comment)
  • I like to have the boys act out the stories that we are reading when they are in a super wriggly mood. Sometimes we make up hand signals they do every time they hear a certain word. (Recommended by Rachel via blog comment)
  • I put together a box of “hand fidgets” for him – things he can squish around in his hands while he’s listening but that won’t distract him from his lesson. (Recommended by Paula via blog comment)
  • When my daughter has the wiggles, she holds a toy car in her hands. Rolling the wheels with her fingers seems to help keep her listening without creating any distractions. (Recommended by Liz T. via blog comment)
  • My children all like to do handicrafts while we read…embroidery, crochet “chains”, and drawing have all been wonderful during read-aloud. (Recommended by Amara K. via blog comment)
  • Color, draw, Perler beads, Play-Doh, Rainbow Loom, and crocheting have all worked well. (Recommended by Carlyn L. via Facebook)
  • Puzzles are a favorite at our house right now. (Recommended by @ourlittleschoolhouse via Instagram)

Photo credit: Rachel Neumann and Shawna Wingert

< Previous Post  Next Post >

Leave a Comment

Amy

says:

My almost 8 year old can rarely sit still while listening to a story. He jumps around, moves from chair to couch to floor, waves his arms in excitement. Frankly, being able to move about while he listens seems to improve his comprehension significantly. Movement is the natural state of many children, and does not impede understanding, but may improve it, I think.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Amy,
I do think movement improves understanding for many children. So much so that I provide coloring pages, blank paper, and a box of crayons per child in my Sunday School class, and I teach older elementary students. At home I never sit down to read aloud without having something for my kids to do, even if it is just doodling and coloring.

Johanna Barrow

says:

Thank you for these great tips! My son is very active so it’s imperative for me to be creative during read aloud time!!

kylia

says:

Some great ideas to try. I try and read at lunchtime whenever I can but this gives some great options.

Char

says:

Neat products. They intrigue me to try with my dyslexic son.

Allison

says:

Great ideas!

Jessica B.

says:

Great ideas! I have never thought of reading while the child is in the bath, but that’s a fantastic idea! We often read during meals.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Jessica,
I used to read aloud when my toddlers were potty training ;).

Gail

says:

Definitely will try this with my 3 yr. old. Thx!

CRYSTAL LADD

says:

Great ideas! Thanks for posting!

Brianna Beers

says:

I made reading part of our daily schedule to let me children understand that it is an important part of our daily routines. Now, they love when reading time comes!

Catherine

says:

Great ideas! I will definitely try some of these! Thanks for sharing! It is nice to know that I am not alone in this!

Amara Kwasiborski

says:

My children all like to do handicrafts while we read…embroidery, crochet “chains”, and drawing have all been wonderful during read-aloud.

Barbara

says:

We always had our kids drawing or Lego-ing while we read. Sometimes I would say, “Are any of you really listening?” And then they would blow my mind with specific recall details….something they couldn’t necessarily do if they were forced to sit still and listen.

Katie

says:

Love the ideas! Thanks!

Krissy

says:

Thanks for sharing!

Christina Orr

says:

My girls love reading at bedtime!

Sandi E

says:

Great ideas! Thanks for sharing :)

Ann

says:

I read aloud to my children until they were well into their teens. We read in the evenings, after everything was cleaned up for the next day. They usually did hand work (knitting, cross stitch, plastic canvas, etc.) while I read. We all have special memories of those times, and we got through a LOT of books! Now I’m reading to my grandchildren and getting them hooked on books too.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Ann,
Yes, definitely. Most families read aloud to their young children, but as soon as the child is reading well they stop. Don’t stop!

amber deuel

says:

This has always looked like a great program, I need to get one and I always
seem to go back to this one!

Anne

says:

This works for Mom, too, while my children read a loud to me! My daughter’s voice used to lull me to sleep. Now I work on embroidery and crochet projects. Guess what everyone is getting for Christmas!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Anne,
I had a big smile when I read this. I have a sweater -this- close to being finished. Maybe if I work on my knitting while my kids read I can wear it this winter. :)

m.l.

says:

We use legos while reading with our two boys. Nothing requiring instructions, just ‘free building’s. I enjoy receiving your emails.

Amanda Wallace

says:

I read to my wiggler at bedtime. She is usually snuggled up to her kitty, Ariel, petting her as she listens intently.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Amanda,
Yes! We should probably add pets to the list, as petting cats or dogs is a great help in getting wigglers to listen.

Susan

says:

My kids (age 6 and 4) love to listen to funny books…so I am always on the lookout for them.

Cheryl

says:

Thanks, my granddaughter isn’t so much a wiggler, as she is distracted. By almost anything. Using some of these ideas has helped her focus a bit more by changing things.

Diana

says:

Good ideas! I’ve got 2 that will sit and listen and wiggly one :)

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Diana,
My wiggly one is my one with the best listening abilities. She just has to be busy to listen well, which means listening looks like finger knitting, coloring, building with blocks, making doll beds under the kitchen table, doing headstands in chairs, and dozens of other things, sometimes all in the same hour!

Amy

says:

Thank you!

Sara

says:

My youngest is a wiggler! He has to be doing something with his hands at first, but will eventually relax and ask for another book.

Lydia R.

says:

My younger one is always more interested when I’m trying to read to his older brother (instead of when I’m trying to read to him).

So far what he enjoys are books that are actually song lyrics; he loves singing and music in general. If I can “sing” books instead of read books to him, he’ll probably be more interested. *g*

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Lydia,
If he is interested in his older brother’s read alouds, then you may want to encourage that. My youngest has remarkable listening comprehension because of this. She enjoys long chapter books and historical fiction that her brothers weren’t ready for until they were years older.

Kate

says:

We love reading during lunch time! Best use of time and everyone is quiet.

Melissa

says:

I have no tips because thankfully my kids LOVE reading and don’t wiggle.

Rachael

says:

My boys are super wigglers! It’s encouraging to be reassured of these tips like thinking putty & doodling while listening. Thanks!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Rachael,
My kids do so much better with read alouds if they have something to do. I love reading aloud while they clean or fold towels, but I also like to have projects like cross stitching, painting, and such too.

Leave a Comment