Overexcitabilities in Lockdown: Psychomotor Overexcitability

High learning potential children, especially those who display Psychomotor Overexcitability, can be highly energetic, always on the go and may want to be constantly engaged in an activity. Whilst it can lead parents to despair even in more normal times to have a child who won’t sit still at the dinner table, who rushes around all day, and who never seems to get tired, in this lockdown, things can feel a whole lot worse!

How can we cater for our highly energetic children during these extraordinary times when we are all at home and all on top of each other?

  1. Understand their overexcitability

A child with psychomotor overexcitability is not being defiant when they are fidgeting fit to burst after sitting still for a certain amount of time; they need to let that excess energy out. Understanding that it is not poor behaviour but a need that requires support is the most important first step in everyone surviving a lockdown together!

  1. Think up a go-to list of positive ways to let the energy out and schedule it into the day

This reinforces the message that their high energy is not “bad” or something about which they should feel guilty; that it is understood, supported, and can actually be an amazingly positive thing. Letting that energy out will also help a child with psychomotor overexcitability to concentrate, which, in turn, will help them to feel good about themselves and enjoy a sense of accomplishment, too.

Use any fidget toys that help and, if you are lucky enough to have a garden, then use it liberally! Be it running, hopping, skipping or a home-made assault course, schedule as many movement breaks as you deem necessary. If you don’t have a garden, then try to create furniture-friendly versions of these activities, or come up with other great indoor activities (even running on the spot can work wonders!). Just moving from one room to another for different lessons or activities can help to incorporate movement breaks into the day. [i]

  1. Utilise the exercise allowance to the max!

However, don’t assume it will suffice as the only exercise of the day. Use it in any way you feel is best, but as part of the day’s movement and activity schedule, not all of it. Take a look at 10 Inspirations for Daily Walks – Social Distancing-Style for some great ideas on how to really make the most of your daily walk.

  1. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, there is no need to conform

Even if others, especially on social media, seem to be acing a 10-hour school day of immense and quietly seated productivity, then a) they’re probably fibbing and b) it doesn’t mean we all have to try to replicate this! Creating a situation that works best for your family is the most important thing, and all of our days will look totally different. Remember, consistent movement breaks throughout the day are not fripperies or evidence of any kind of slacking, they are essential to your child’s wellbeing. So dance to your family’s own tune!

  1. Use this unique time with your child to see what might trigger particularly pronounced bouts of fidgetiness

Could they manage a little more challenge? Perhaps they could collaborate in designing the week’s timetable? In this way, they may feel more invested in it and can perhaps have some say in what they do. It is often easier for a child with psychomotor overexcitability to concentrate if they are super-interested in the activity. Of course, this may need to be balanced with some more mundane work, but allocating time for their passions can really aid enthusiasm and concentration. This, in turn, can have a positive effect on their self-esteem and wellbeing, and might even make the less welcome tasks more bearable, too.

  1. Feel free to liberally plunder the lockdown learning resources on our website

Lockdown Learning Resources has lots of links to great ideas and free ways to keep even the most high energy child occupied throughout the day. There are subject-specific resources as well as great challenge ideas and lots more to keep up with even the busiest high learning potential child.

  1. Mix it up!

Take this unique opportunity at home to introduce your child to new things. Not everything will be a hit, but it’s a great chance to try new things that might lead to new hobbies, interests or passions.[ii]

  1. Remember the situation

This is an exceptionally unusual time. Remember that stresses and anxieties around coronavirus and all of the associated changes to our lives may well be expressed through even more heightened activity than usual. There may be even more jumping off of sofas or careering around the place than usual. Whilst this may be frustrating, especially if you are trying to get work done at the same time, it is important to remember that this is unlikely to be knowingly-chosen “bad” behaviour. It is very often a stress response, and it is a stressful time for everyone.

Understand, reassure, and provide space for them to talk through their worries if they need to. Mindfulness activity books such as “No Worries! Mindful Kids: An activity book for children who sometimes feel anxious or stressed” by Dr. Sharie Coombes,  where they can work through the activities to help them with their worries may be worth looking into. They also double as a very productive way to keep them occupied for a little while! It might also be of use to look at the advice sheet PA616 Describing Feelings, which can help high learning potential children who may be dealing with big emotions to name and understand those big feelings, thus helping them to feel a greater sense of agency and control.

  1. Provide opportunities for calm as well

Whilst it is undeniably important to provide movement opportunities throughout the day, it is also just as key to watch out for over-stimulation and have a set of go-to soothing activities as well. Whether it is reading, having a bath or listening to music, it is essential to remember that children may sometimes need help to relax as much as they need to move and be active.

  1. Finally, in any way that you can, present difficult conditions accepted, take any opportunity, however minor it might be, to look after yourself and relax

They might be few and far between, but whatever works for you, be it the one and only TV programme that gets them sitting down and quiet, or anything else that has the magical power to calm them down and give you a little peace, then take it, take it, take it!

Take care and deep breaths!


To learn more about this overexcitability, look at our advice sheet PA611 High Learning Potential and Active (Psychomotor Overexcitability). It’s also well worth reading our advice sheet on all of the overexcitabilities, PA610 Hypersensitivity (Dabrowski’s Overexcitabilities), for more information on all the other overexcitabilities too!

[i and ii] https://raisinglifelonglearners.com/psychomotor-overexcitabilities/


About the author: Caroline Hooton-Picard is an adviser for Potential Plus UK. She has a background in mental health, having worked for Suffolk Mind and also in private practice, and has a first class degree in Philosophy from the University of Essex. She also has a High Learning Potential daughter who keeps her very much on her toes!

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